The Marquis Who Mustn't
Grade : B+

Courtney Milan is such a good storyteller and The Marquis Who Mustn’t is another winner from this author. I was immediately caught up in this story which features a mystery, a con scheme, and a fake engagement along with a delightful cast of family and friends.

Naomi Kwan grew up in Wedgeford (the series is set in the 1890s), a small town outside of Dover, and has dreamed of taking an ambulance class for years. However, when she goes to Dover to register for the class, she is told that to protect her virtue, they need permission from a man who has authority over her. Naomi has a man named Mr. Peng with her, whom her father asked her to pick up from the train station, and she tells them he is her fiancé. It turns out that the man is not actually Mr. Peng but is Liu Ji Kai. For his own reasons, he quickly agrees that he is her fiancé and even signs up to take the ambulance course with her!

Kai explains to Naomi that he is also from Wedgeford and is returning with 42 trunks full of special dirt that he will use to make pots. He shares with her that his father, who called himself the Marquis of Everlasting Beauty, ran a con where he convinced the villagers to invest in his scheme and then left in the middle of the night with their money. Kai is coming back to his family home and kiln to make pots. He doesn’t tell her that he is planning one more final fraud and I wondered what scheme he was up to! So there is a mystery as to why he has returned and the villagers are wary and wondering the same thing too. He recognizes Naomi’s name and realizes they were actually betrothed when they were very young but he keeps this to himself for now.

Naomi is twenty two and half Chinese and half Japanese. She lives at an inn with her parents where she helps cook and serve but feels she is plain, clumsy and unlovable. Kai thinks she’s special and he likes how she glows when she is talking about the ambulance class. He looks out for her and wants to see her happy – he realizes he likes her but doesn’t think anything can come of it because he plans to leave after the big fraud. I think he is one of the sweetest male leads I have seen in a long time. Both Naomi and Kai have family issues to work through and they go through a lot of growth in the story with the help of their wise friends and family.

When Naomi and Kai become close and begin to kiss, Kai tells her that it’s tearing him apart but he must leave soon and so he can’t make love to her because he won’t be able to marry her and doesn’t want to hurt her. But the more time they spend together, the more their passion builds. After Kai gives her a special gift of a pot that fits her small hands, Naomi starts watching him make pots on his wheel and there’s a sensual scene that had me thinking of the potter’s wheel scene in the movie Ghost (but without the ghost). She tells him she wants him, even if he can’t stay and she sneaks into his cottage at night. He finds strength and inspiration from their lovemaking and comes up with new plan for his con-I don’t want to reveal spoilers-but his new plan is wonderful.

I think it helps to have read the first book in the series, The Duke who Didn’t, to get a feel for the community and characters but it’s not necessary. Chloe and Jeremy, from the first book, make an appearance later in the story. There was some repetition of Kai’s feelings of unworthiness throughout the story because of what his father did to the village. However, the ending is really satisfying and I loved the epilogue where we get to see how Naomi and Kai are doing in the future.

I highly recommend this to readers who would enjoy a historical romance with clever and loving characters, a mystery and a con scheme.

Reviewed by Kayne Spooner

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 11, 2023

Publication Date: 10/2023

Review Tags: AoC PoC Wedgeford Trials

Recent Comments …

  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Kayne Spooner

Kayne Spooner is a retired science teacher, dog owner, and proud grandma who lives in beautiful Colorado. While she's an avid reader of all genres, romances have always swept her off her feet. Kayne gravitates toward stories with humor, swoon-worthy love interests, and memorable furry sidekicks, although really, if there's a happy ever after, she's here for it! She loves sharing her passion for books with the romance community and connecting with fellow readers.
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