The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband
Julia Quinn     

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: A Bridgertons Prequel

While you were sleeping...

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...
I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he's more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out three months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he'd always assumed he'd marry his neighbor back in England.
If only it were true...

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

I haven’t read a Julia Quinn book in a while. What intrigued me about this one is that it’s a Bridgerton prequel. It made me wonder what came before the Bridgertons. Cecelia and Thomas, that’s who.

The Girl With the Make Believe Husband is the appropriate title for this book. When Cecelia Harcourt arrives in America having left England after learning her brother Thomas has been injured, she discovers Edward, her brother’s good friend, is injured and in the hospital.  In order to be able to see and help take care of him, she lies and tells them she’s his wife. She plans to tell him the truth if and when he finally awakens. However when he does, he has no memory of the last three months.

Edward Rokesby awakens to a wife he doesn’t remember. He remembers her brother Thomas but not her. He definitely doesn’t remember a marriage between them, but he’s weak from a head injury and takes her at her word. They’re married. By proxy. Not the way he ever thought he’d be married.

Each chapter begins with a snippet of correspondence between first Cecilia and her brother and then Cecelia and Edward. We learn quite early that they became acquainted through those letters. A true friendship is formed and the face-to-face meeting makes them like each other all the more.

And therein is the sweetness of their romance. It’s a slow build as they get to know each other. Immediately, Edward is as protective of Cecelia as she is of him, while she is also racked by guilt at deceiving him. She’s constantly find reasons to put off telling him the truth while she worries about what’s happened to her brother.

I found the story drags in places;  Edward healing and their search for Thomas. I thought given Ms. Quinn’s penchant for humor, I would find some of that within these pages but that wasn’t the case. Both Cecelia and Edward are good people but not terribly exciting. Cecelia remains in a suspended state of guilt and even more so when she discovers Edward is supposed to marry a neighbor from home, Billie Bridgerton. Their only conflict is that she’s lying to him about being married, and while that should be enough to sustain a story, here it doesn’t quite do the trick. At least not for me. I like my conflicts more fraught with tension and fierce emotion. 

Things do pick up towards the end of the book—when Edward learns the truth. That’s when I saw the spark of emotion I’d been hoping to see much earlier. In Edward though, not so much in Cecelia. The end is what bumped the book up half a star from what I thought I was going to give the book.

If you’re looking for a romance where the hero and heroine are amiable and solicitous to each other throughout most of the book with hot love scenes, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Ms. Quinn’s latest.  

~ Susan