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ARC Review: An Affair By the Sea by Erica Ridley

Publication Date: March 15, 2022


What happens when a wallflower’s extremely make-believe fake suitor appears in the flesh just in time to ruin all her spinsterly plans?

Orphaned pianist Allegra Brown is a poor relation with nothing much to recommend her, save a minuscule dowry and a very big imagination. She has spent the past several years as governess to her younger cousins, who are now ready for their come out—and want Allegra to marry, too. Specifically, they eagerly await the return of Allegra’s dashing, handsome, swashbuckling, conveniently absent and secretly fictional fiancé, the dread pirate Captain L’Amour.

The only place Mr. John Sharp strikes fear is in the courtroom, where his neat, ordered mind is renowned for winning every case he presents. John loves predictability and longs to be a chef. Unfortunately, every time he puts on an apron, the entire kitchen catches fire. Much like passion burning between him and a certain wildly unpredictable spinster, who seems to have confused him for a dashing, exciting pirate. By fulfilling her fantasies, can his dreams come true…together?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This novella was, from the very beginning, absolutely ridiculous. Nothing that happened was really even remotely possible — and yet I found myself just enjoying the ride. It’s a testament to Erica Ridley’s writing skills that she can turn a farcical premise like this into something sweet where I was invested in the characters and their romance and holding out hope for a happy-ever-after.

We have John, a former solicitor who dreams of opening his own tea shop and whose previous attempt at being a chef went up in flames. Literally. His catchphrase could be a combination of ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ and ‘be prepared. No, more prepared than that.’

We have Allegra, the poor ward of her uncle who works as an unpaid servant in his household taking care of her two cousins. She dreams of the day she turns 30 and can claim the money left to her should she remain a spinster. Her catchphrase could be ”But it could be true.’

Allegra has spent years spinning ever more ridiculous tales of her long-lost fiance Captain Hamish L’Amour. Her cousins are delighted (and Allegra horrified) when they run into the Captain on the street. John takes it all in stride, after accidentally confirming that indeed, it is he. He and Allegra then turn the case of mistaken identity into an elaborate fake courtship, while falling in love for real and challenging one another to step out of their comfort zones and seize their dreams.

It was feel-good and sweet and terribly funny. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who needs a good laugh and a dose of happily-ever-after.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Erica Ridley, and WebMotion for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Operatic…pirate…bards? Who sang vicarious love songs in iambic pentameter on command?

“It may surprise you to learn that ‘love at first sight’ is rather quick,” Portia said. “Instantaneous, even. By definition.”

From their perspective, Allegra had always looked this unfashionable. It was difficult to notice an injustice when the injustice was “just the way things are.”

Rude, to be so casually dashing at this hour of the morning.

Miss Portia clapped her hands. “Reprimanded in tandem! Has there ever been anything more lovely?” She gave a happy sigh. “This must be what it feels like to have two parents.”

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