A Love By Design is a fabulous final instalment in Elizabeth Everett’s The Secret Scientists of London series, giving us the stories of Margaret and George, and a real series high point, as we get a lot of tension and a whole lot of fun in the process. This is a can’t-miss for historical romance fans who want a little fun and charm in their lives to warm up those midwinter doldrums.
Margaret Gault has moved back to the scientific women’s compound Athena’s Retreat in London, and she refuses to melt into the walls the way all ‘good widows’ are supposed to. Seven years after her husband’s death, she’s closed the family engineering firm in Paris and moved back to England, gearing up to launch the world’s first all-women owned and staffed engineering firm. Unfortunately, her investors will do anything to maximize profits to the detriment of her employees. When Maggie chooses to take an engineering commission from a politician who is strongly opposed by several members of Athena’s Retreat, havoc descends.
George – Georgie – Willis, Earl Grantham, most often called Grantham, has a reputation behind him but he’s determined to do what he can to bring about a better world. An uncouth outsider to the ton who earned the nickname “The Untamed Earl”, Georgie has spent years pining after his childhood friend – a fact made quite difficult by the fact that she’s now working for his political rival, who stands in opposition to the reforms he’s trying to get through Parliament.
Georgie decides to charm Maggie into dropping her support of Sir Royce Geflitt. That involves, among other things, very close contact, which brings up a whole lot of positive and negative memories. Once upon a time, Maggie and Georgie were childhood friends who longed to be together, but their bitter estrangement has lasted decades. Can they find friendship – and even love – under the pressing ongoing weight of their career struggles and political engagements?
What a great hero Georgie makes, and what a firm heroine Maggie is. Together they’re dynamite – longing for one another but refusing to give in because the consequences for what they really wish for could be simply too dire. The tension is fun, the slow burn toward romance is great. Neither of them have forgotten their youths and the possibility of what might have been. It’s a great little romance, and they’re very easy to root for.
The peeks into engineering and architecture are fun, and they seem historically well-researched and trenchant without overwhelming the narrative at large.
The lives of the other characters march on, and Everett continues to do a good job of interweaving the characters’ lives together. Arthur and Violet now have a daughter named Mirren, and Georgie, after courting Violet for a while during her book, has settled into the role of being Arthur’s friend and Mirren’s ultra-indulgent honorary uncle. He delights in winding Arthur up, calling Mirren “Georgie” and getting under Arthur’s skin by producing and threatening to produce lavish gifts (ponies, anyone?)
This series has been enjoyable from start to finish, and if you’ve begun it, this volume proves it’s well-worth continuing to the conclusion. Romantic, with characters who are easy to root for, Love by Design is skilfully-engineered to make you happy.
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