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REVIEW: Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas:

I knew by the end of chapter one, that this book would be one I would remember for a long time. In just that first chapter a well of emotion swelled up and closed the passage of my throat such that each subsequent page read triggered feeling. “Come on baby, make it hurt so good. Sometimes love don’t feel like it should. You make it hurt so good” sings, John Cougar Mellancamp.

Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas Milly is the only daughter of a very wealthy merchant. He has bought her the Earl of Fitzhugh, an old man at age thirty-three to Millie’s tender sixteen. Only the Earl dies to be replaced by his heir, Lord Fitzhugh. Upon her first sight of Fitz, young Millie falls in love. 16 and saved from marriage to an aging lord, Fitz is like a gift from God, with his golden hair and beautiful visage. Millie’s delight is turned to secret dismay when Fitz confronts her and suggests that this is not a path that they both have to follow.

Fitz had not planned on being Earl of Fitzhugh. He has his own love, Isabelle, and is devastated to learn of his inheritance, such that it is. The title and the lands are in desperate need of an infusion of cash and he can only save his title and his family by marrying Millie.

Pride compels Millie to tell Fitz that she too has a love whom she can’t be with. We all know she refers to Fitz whose heart belongs to another, but Fitz believes that it is another man. Together they agree on a marriage based on friendship, not physicality. Millie is very young, after all, and Fitz and she agree that they’ll have no physical relations for eight years. But Fitz does not give up his passion for Isabelle easily. Through a series of flashbacks we see the pain Fitz suffers upon hearing of Isabelle’s marriage to another. Then the birth of her first child. It would seem that Fitz’s life had come to an end with these news.

Millie serves as his most stalwart companion, consoling him as much as she is allowed. Sometimes Fitz realizes that Millie must have these same feelings for her unrequited love, but she is so self contained that none of it leaks out. He marvels at her ability to cope although it must be noted that Fitz is a somewhat selfish person, concerning himself with only his own losses and his own emotions because if he wasn’t perhaps he would have question Millie’s stoicness.

Millie is a burning container of passion, as much a romantic and full of deep emotion as Fitz, but she suppresses it all. It’s virtually unbearable to read the scenes where she sits calmly discussing Fitz’s various mistresses, women he slakes his physical pleasure with, knowing that she loves him.

When the news of Isabelle’s return to England, Fitz tells Millie that he intends to set up a household with Isabelle and her two children. Millie gives her blessing. Millie’s deep love for Fitz means that she accepts the pain, but also wants him happy. I’m dying for Millie. Because Millie is so suppressed, her emotions written in such a understated way, I, as the reader, am compelled to feel them more largely. Every word Fitz seems to utter is a dart in my heart, not just Millie’s.

The anniversary of their 8 year promise is upon them and Fitz requires that they embark on a six month physical journey so that Millie can hope to be impregnated before he leaves her to be with Isabelle. When Millie shudders with joy at his touch, Fitz reads this as revulsion, thinking she must want to be with her love like he wants to be with his.

While I am not a fan of flashbacks in most books, I think it was almost necessary in this one. The flashbacks are painful and in order to make the book bearable, those painful moments must be interrupted by hopeful ones. So where is the hope? This is a romance story about Fitz and Millie. It is one of the most true friends to lovers stories one will read. From the very beginning, we are shown the deep regard Fitz has toward Millie. In the opening scene, during the discussion about Isabelle’s return, Millie oversalts her eggs and leaves the table with her breakfast untouched. Fitz notices this immediately and becomes concerned because “As unthinkable as it had been eight years ago, they’d become good friends. And friends watched out for one another.”

I did wonder at Fitz’s myopia. It was like he lived in a dream state until Isabelle returned and the real world intruded. The real world was one where Fitz loved Millie too only he didn’t realize it. The longing he had for Isabelle was wrapped up in the nostalgia of youth – that innocent and free time before Fitz had to become an adult. The adult Fitz, the one with responsibilities, doesn’t quite understand Isabelle’s headstrong nature, her fearlessness of scandal, her lack of care for her children’s future in the world. He can’t help comparing her, often unfavorably with Millie. The adult Fitz knows he cares deeply about Millie and does not want to see her hurt in any fashion or humiliated. Fitz has to balance what he perceives as the culmination of all his wants and hopes and dreams with the rightness of his reality.

I also, at times, wondered at Millie’s long suffering nature. What else could she do though? She wasn’t able to stop loving him although at times she wanted to. Yet, she took everything without a drop of reproach and I would have liked to have seen some rejection of his antics at some point in the book. Perhaps it wasn’t in her nature to do so, but when does a long suffering love turn bitter?

I was so deeply invested in Millie’s happiness from the first pages. The pain and angst is made all the more delicious by the payoff. I do wonder, though, whether a Thomas book can be written without flashbacks. A-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

40 Comments

  1. Anne
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 08:34:27

    I don’t think ‘His at Night’ had flashbacks.

    Thanks for the review. I’m really looking forward to this one.

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  2. Mandi
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:05:29

    I loved and adored this book. Might throat closed up on more than one occasion.

    And I agree, I’m so glad she put in the flashbacks although I’m not usually a fan of them either.

    The only disappointment I had was the end. It felt so rushed. All of a sudden Isabelle lets Fitz go and he is truly ready to be 100% in love with Millie? I needed more time to be convinced of it all. But otherwise, this the emotion and angst in this book is really incredible.

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  3. Brie
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:08:06

    I was looking forward to reading this book because the premise is so interesting, I even read a couple of her previous titles in preparation, but nope, I can’t handle it. I like angst, but this is the angst of doom, and it’s too much for me. Great review!

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  4. Brie
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:10:16

    @Mandi: wait? Isabelle lets Fitz go? What about him? We don’t get the satisfaction of him breaking up with her? See what I mean? Angst of doom!

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  5. Jane
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:12:27

    I didn’t feel that Isabelle let Fitz go but that he made the break, only did it in a way that disminished her hurt feelings. Fitz was up front with everyone including with Isabelle that he needed to have a physical relationship with Millie. This obviously bothered Isabelle and her worries that he would never leave Millie came to fruition.

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  6. Rosie
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:13:03

    I’m really looking forward to this one. I just finished Beguiling the Beauty, and was struck by the fact that even though I didn’t love the H/h or the plot, I still found the book extremely compelling. She has a gift. I think I’m gonna love Fitz and Millie’s story. (Friends to lovers is my favorite trope by far.) Also really anxious for Hastings and Helena’s story. Big fan of this author.

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  7. Dabney
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:15:31

    His at Night has, I think, only one true flashback in it, which describes why Vere made the choice to don his persona. There are no relational flashbacks.

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  8. Vi Dao
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:30:54

    “It’s virtually unbearable to read the scenes where she sits calmly discussing Fitz’s various mistresses, women he slakes his physical pleasure with, knowing that she loves him.”

    This is my biggest worry about reading this book. Fitz is oblivious to Millie’s feelings, but poor Millie.

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  9. growlycub
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:37:35

    The ending destroyed this book for me. While I felt throughout that things were just too easy for Fitz after the ending I felt that he didn’t need to grow up at all and things were just handed to him. I thought it was totally unbelievable that Isabella would just fade quietly into the woodwork.
    The ending made me really indignant on Millie’s behalf. It felt like another 50-70 pages at least were missing for a satisfying conclusion. It to my grade from a B+ to a .

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  10. GrowlyCub
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 09:39:12

    Darn no more editing.

    It took my grade from a B+ to a C.

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  11. Kim
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 11:02:59

    I’m starting this book tonight. I’ve enjoyed all of Sherry’s books, so I anticipate enjoying this one as well. It will be interesting to see if readers who dislike infidelity in their books accepts it here, since it appears that Millie & Fitz have an open marriage for the first 8 years.

    Isn’t there at least one scene where Millie is pushed too far and explodes? Even the most tranquil person has to have a boiling point. Finally, from your review, it doesn’t appear that Fitz ever asks for the name of the man that Millie supposedly loves. Even if Fitz is myopic, it’s a bit odd.

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  12. Diana
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 11:38:41

    @GrowlyCub: I completely agree. Sherry Thomas is a wonderful technical writer, but the ending was rushed and unconvincing to me. The story was marinating in high angst and drama, but since there wasn’t a well-rounded, satisfying conclusion to the “love” story (for me), it felt like angst for angst’s sake. I honestly felt a little emotionally manipulated by the whole thing.

    I also had this problem with other Sherry Thomas books, most especially Private Arrangements. Where the angst is high and the emotional payoff is disappointing (and sometimes enraging). I kind of wish she’d focus less on flashbacks in her novels and more on overall plot consistency — having a satisfying beginning, middle *and* ending. Really frustrating because I want to love this author! But her books just are — for me — too much painful cruelty between the main couples with so little endgame payoff.

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  13. Las
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 12:33:50

    Judging by this review I don’t think I’d enjoy this one at all. I was already iffy on it because it’s another love at first sight story, but all the other details are just giant red flags. Fitz is completely oblivious to Millie’s feelings; Millie’s a stoic martyr for the entire book; Fitz is still that hung up on an old love after 8 years of no contact; the comparisons between Millie and Isabelle, with Millie being the obvious better woman.

    I really dislike the direction Thomas’ stories have taken with this series, particularly the characters. So far they’ve all been very stereotypical of Romance. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if Helena were still a virgin in the next book.

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  14. carmen webster buxton
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 12:43:30

    It sounds almost as if it were inspired by Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract– not in a rip-off way, because the plot has decided differences, but the theme “wealthy heiress with secret passion for penniless aristo” is very similar. Adam thinks he is making a marriage of convenience but in fact Jenny, his heiress wife, is deeply in love with him.

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  15. sula
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 13:26:18

    @Las: This is my feeling exactly. I don’t do angst for angst’s sake too well, and I hate sitting through an entire book of martyr heroine drama. I think I’ll pass on this one.

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  16. Jennie
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 14:50:04

    I don’t disagree with some of the criticisms of this book – the ending should have been stronger, Milly deserved some groveling or at the very least some OTT emotion from Fitz, and Fitz was pretty thick and un-selfaware at times. BUT, the book was an A- for me because it was so emotionally compelling. I was on the verge of tears through most of it, and I don’t cry at books easily at all. So while I agree that RtH was flawed, any book that wrings that much emotion from me deserves an A range grade. Looking forward to the third book in the series.

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  17. Ducky
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 17:12:38

    I am looking forward to reading this as I love Thomas’ writing. Some of her characters have made me want to smack them – like the hero in Private Arrangements and the heroine in Not Quite A Husband – but I enjoy her books.

    So, the hero in this one gets to fuck around while his wife has to be the dutiful virgin – boy, that sticks in my craw. At least in Private Arrangements both the hero and the heroine got to take lovers.

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  18. Arianne
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 21:54:19

    @carmen webster buxton: Exactly what I was going to say. Might read it just to see how closely the plots match up. Also, there might be a happier ending, an actual HEA. Though I seriously doubt anyone can trump Heyer.

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  19. sarah Mayberry
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 22:47:53

    Sold. My God, this book is so far up my alley, it’s ridiculous. CANNOT WAIT!!!!

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  20. Camila
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 02:56:03

    Reading RAVISHING THE HEIRESS is like having your heart trapped in a tight fist. This is what falling in love is. It makes you forget about breathing.

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  21. Rosario
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 03:44:04

    @sula: In abstract, I completely agree with you and Las, and I would probably not even consider reading a book with this plot. But… this is Sherry Thomas. I trust her to do something different with it, and to make me like it in spite of myself. We’ll see how it goes!

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  22. swati
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 06:19:04

    @Las:
    same here … i read a sneak preview chapter, where he discusses his mistress with her … completely put me off … and now after reading the review, this is definitely not me …. i hate martyr heroines and i hate heros that walk in and out of any relationship with a sense on entitlement … she throwing a few things at his head, he grovelling for being an utter ass – then we can talk

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  23. Dabney
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 07:24:26

    @Camila: That was lovely and captures how the book made me feel.

    @swati: I think RvH could be like that, but it’s not. Millie’s not a martyr–she thought the deal she made was the right thing to do. I don’t think Fitz acts entitled either. He is committed to Millie–one of my favorite things about the book was their working relationship around Millie’s tinning company–he just doesn’t realize she loves him and wants him carnally. They both make mistakes and come to understand them.

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  24. Dear Author Recommends for July
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 14:03:22

    [...] REVIEW: Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas [...]

  25. etv13
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 03:02:47

    I didn’t think Fitz owed Millie groveling, exactly; he was as much a victim of social and economic pressures and expectations as she was. I did think his notion that he could stay with Millie for six months after Isabelle’s return, and then take up a life with Isabelle, was incredibly stupid — in part for the reasons Millie eventually cites (e.g., how will you explain your relationship to her children?) and in part because WTF? He was seriously contemplating having a child with Millie and being a largely absentee father? He never considered the social humiliation their living arrangement would inflict on Millie? I mean, obviously, he cared about that to some degree, given the way he dumped that mistress who treated Millie badly, and yet he was thinking of openly leaving his wife (and child) to live with his mistress? Seriously, what was he thinking?

    Which leads me to the other issue I had with the book, and that is the characterization of Isabelle. It’s been eight years. She’s married another man and had two children. And she really thinks she can take up a life with Fitz, who is still married (and plans to stay married) to Millie, and everything will be duckie? What the hell kind of immature idiot is she?

    In addition to A Civil Contract, here are the books I thought about when reading this: Ballad of the Tiger Mother (Millie working on her posture until she can walk downstairs without dropping the books on her head, and practising the piano for hours and hours every day, even though she’s not musical at all); Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series (Jake marries Kate, even though he loves Adrien, because he feels the social pressures and expectations to marry a woman).

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  26. pamela
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 23:39:55

    Just finished it, and I loved it!! I agree with everyone who felt like the ending was rushed, I wish I was still reading. I also agree that Isabelle gave up much easier than I expected in light of her apparent obsession. I think, though, that she was clinging to Fitz due to her disconcerting change in her circumstance.
    Despite small quibbles, the angst worked really well for me. I want to read books that make me cry, and this one did, a relative rarity in historicals these days it seems. I also genuinely liked the main characters as well as the side characters. Initially, I wanted fewer flashbacks, but it ended up working well overall.

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  27. Kerith
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 07:22:13

    I have read it now three times and I have come to the same conclusion. The characters were flawless. Though Fitz did annoy me sometimes with his cluelessness and how blind he was to Millie, I still loved him. He was just doing the best he could. Quite loving Millie, I have had a bleeding heart for since I read the preview like 4 months ago. She totally deserves a light fluffy sickly sweet romance after this book. :-) Even Isabelle, I felt bad for. The plot was great, though it was filled with heartache. There are parts in this book that are hard to read, but are worth it…if the end is fabulous. This could have been the best book/story I have ever read if only the ending was like 30 pages longer.

    I just want more; especially in the end. I wanted to see from Fitz POV searching for Millie in the last scene, with his panic and heartache. I wanted to see Fitz remodel his bedroom to another sitting room so he can spend everynight and afternoon (btw 4 and 5pm) with Millie. I wanted him to tell someone, anyone that he is so embrassed/hurt for Millie when he thinks back on all the times he talked to Millie about his “affiars”; and the time he wasted on that stupid pact. I wanted to see him walk through a party talking to everyone and then end up flirting with Millie in front of everyone. I know that within their pact that Fitz could sleep with others and now things are different, but I want still him to make a new convent that he would never sleep with anyone but Millie agian because he could not image touching anyone who wasn’t Millie (that was a really long sentence). I do believe Fits loves Millie, I just wanted to see more of it. I guess I just wanted more, and its more annoying because I really REALLY loved this book up to the end. I just hoping we get more Millie and Fitz time in Midnight Scandals and Tempting the Bride. I guess it can’t be bad if all I wanted was more. ;)

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  28. Patsy
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 08:56:20

    @ Kerith: EXACTLY. I feel that the ending was so rushed and that the reader deserved to see Fitz’s anguish at finally realizing how he’s inadvertantly hurt Millie all of these years. I’d have also like to have seen some reaction from his sisters or Hastings, telling him to pull his head out of his arse. But, otherwise, I loved the first 90% of this book, even though I don’t really believe in trope of the man finally seeing what’s been in front of him the whole time.

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  29. Jane
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:20:36

    You guys are all correct in the rushed ending. It reminded me a little of the ending to both the Cecilia Grant book (the first one) and the Julie Anne Long book that I liked so much (the one with the May/December romance). I think I saw somewhere that Millie and Fitz show up quite a bit in the third book but I’ve honestly little desire to read that book even though it is *Sherry Thomas*.

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  30. Pamela
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:24:46

    @Jane: I’m curious why you have little desire to read the third book? Is it just a trope that you don’t like?

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  31. Jane
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:28:24

    @Pamela – the blurb combined with the glimpses of the sister don’t seem terribly appealing. She’s sleeping with a married man and according to the blurb, she loses her memory and during that time Hastings? convinces her that they are married or something and then her memory comes back? Seems like a disaster in the making. Like if she loses her memory do her feelings for Andrew conveniently go away? Those are the types of issues that really bothered me in Beguiling the Beauty.

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  32. Pamela
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 09:32:00

    @Kerith: Wow, you exactly described what was missing. It was like Fitz came to his realization, dumped Isabelle, and went to Millie in like three pages. I think that I would have enjoyed some groveling, more declarations of his own stupidity, and I also think that I would have liked to see Millie hold out a bit – not too much to the point of being an idiot, but just enough to make him hurt a little for all that she went through. Maybe even if it was just for those six hours, as you suggested, where he thinks that she is gone, so we can see how he feels to think that he may have lost her.
    Yet, as I write this, there is something very poignant about the way that they didn’t feel the need to unnecessarily cause each other pain, reflecting the deep love they had for each other.

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  33. Kim
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 11:31:21

    I finished this book and really liked it. I didn’t think Fitz’s realization that he loved Millie was rushed, since that covered the last 30 pages. However, the articulation of his love was brief, since it was done in the last 2 pages. As others have said, hopefully, there will be more in the next book. As far as Isabelle giving up too quickly, perhaps that encapsulates the reality that Isabelle wasn’t really a villain. In other books, she would have been the scheming other woman, but I think she looked at Fitz as her port in a storm.

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  34. Kerith
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 12:55:30

    I am so happy I am not alone in my thoughts. I just want to live in the afterglow of them coming together as a true couple a little longer. I don’t believe Fitz should feel too guilt (ok maybe I want him to feel really guilt) about his past behavior, just feel compassion for what Millie went through in the past eight years.

    Its refreshing to see Isebelle as a women who is fearful of her future and not a villain. I hope for her happy, just not with Fitz. ;)

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  35. Kerith
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 13:04:49

    Her happiness, sorry!

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  36. Anne V
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 14:26:42

    Loved. Yes, the ending was rushed, but the writing was excellent, the characters are consistent, and the angst level was pretty much perfect. Yay!

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  37. Kim
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 18:49:36

    I just read that Sherry Thomas is working on 2 novellas related to the Fitzhugh trilogy. The first book is due out in August. She says the 2nd novella “will feature in its entirety the story-within-a-story Hastings writes for Helena.”

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  38. Reading List by Jennie for June 2012
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 10:01:54

    [...] review is here. I mentioned in the review comments that I acknowledge some of the book’s weaknesses, but my [...]

  39. REVIEW: Midnight Scandals by Courtney Milan,Sherry Thomas,Carolyn Jewel
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 08:01:07

    [...] should say here that I haven’t read Thomas’s previous novel, Ravishing the Heiress, in which the story of Fitz and Isabelle begins, so I had no preconceptions about Isabelle. Readers [...]

  40. Anna Cowan
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 01:57:06

    I’m arriving super late to this party, but just wanted to add how much I loved the imagery in this book. It was very simply done, but so, so effective. Particularly using Alice to represent Fitz and Isabelle’s love.

    ReplyReply

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