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In Which Winnie Halifax is Utterly Ruined by Alexandra Vasti

I don’t recall exactly how this trilogy came to my attention. Strangely, it may have been their long titles, which may have signaled to me an Austen-esque voice, one that at the same time did not take itself too seriously. In any case, I was very happy I picked up the first novella, In Which Margo Halifax Earns Her Shocking Reputation, and from then on I waited impatiently for weeks and weeks before the second and the third novellas became available through my library.

The writing is very fun and engaging, and the plots move along less reliant on external conflict than internal character growth, which is how I prefer my historical romance. I was hooked from the first line in the first novella:

It was the rain that ruined Henry Mortimer’s life.

Margo, one half of the Halifax Hellions, seeks help from Henry, her brother’s starchy best friend and solicitor, to go with her after her twin Matilda, who from all appearances has eloped with an older and dangerous man.

All three novellas overlap timewise, more or less. There’s continuity and consistency that helped me feel immersed in their world as well.

In Which Margo Halifax Earns Her Shocking Reputation is Margo and Henry’s book. Henry has pined for Margo for years, but she’s unaware and too busy flouting society’s expectations. In her greatest need, however, she turns to Henry, and the two leave London to try to prevent Margo’s twin Matilda’s elopement. Main trope is friends to lovers.

In Which Matilda Halifax Learns the Value of Restraint is Matilda and Christian’s book. Matilda moonlights as illustrator and, subconsciously, men in her erotic drawings bear a strong likeness to grumpy Christian de Bord. Matilda then sets out to right her wrongs and literally lets sunshine in Christian’s life. There’s an age gap between the two main characters, in case this is or isn’t someone’s jam. Main trope is fake relationship.

In Which Winnie Halifax is Utterly Ruined is Winnie and Spencer’s book. Spencer is Matilda and Margo’s brother. Winnie conjures up a husband to be able to rent the cottage of her dreams and start her sheep farm. The ruse works for years, until her products become famous and news reaches London that Spencer Halifax, the Earl of Warren, has a wife somewhere in Wales. At first, Spencer is not inclined to do much, but he ends up traveling to Wales to try to undo her handiwork. Also fake relationship.

I’ve read all three very happily, but Winnie and Spencer’s book turned out to be my favorite. The male main characters in Margo’s and Matilda’s novellas display more circumscribed personalities: Henry is an uptight character undone, and Christian is the dark and brooding kind. Spencer felt more multifaceted, and I also loved Winnie’s independent streak and the way she created a life for herself from a less-than-ideal upbringing.

Also, do you know how sometimes, when you think you know where the book is going, and you start to brace yourself for being disappointed? Generally I feel that way when there’s a last-minute conflict that feels shoehorned and unnecessary, but that was never the case here. There are several points where things could have taken that type of turn, but the plot never resorted to miscommunications and conflict for the sake of conflict to move forward.

Winnie and Spencer don’t hold grudges either, which was refreshing to see. Case in point: Winnie does lie to Spencer (for… reasons) but that is not allowed to fester, and also Spencer doesn’t storm out in a puff cloud of pride and hurt. He rather seeks to understand her.

The ending of Winnie and Spencer’s novella felt a little rushed, and I wish the problem of how Winnie was still going to run her business from London were fleshed out a little more.

I would say that it is definitely best to read them all in order, if you can, just because there’s a pivotal scene that it would be tougher to understand if you first saw it in Matilda’s book. And I only fully understood Spencer’s character after knowing his sisters and the family dynamics a little better. So if you can, read them in order and enjoy the immersive experience.

Fans of historical romance with a healthy dose of humor and hot sex scenes will love this trilogy. Fans of sweet, tender, funny and well-written romance in general will gobble up all three novellas fast. Just be prepared to join the bad-decisions book club, because I sure renewed my membership by staying up way past my bedtime to finish these.

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