I enjoyed Devil’s Daughter a lot. Phoebe is a widow with two sons. West is a former bad boy who’s changed his ways, not because love reformed him, but because he decided to. And there’s the first hit. He’s already a reformed dude because HE decided to.
West bullied Phoebe’s late husband when they were boys, and here’s the second hit—Phoebe decides to not hang the man for the boy, and West’s bullying has some believable backstory.
And now for the third and the best bit: Phoebe reaches the conclusion that “a heart could make as much as room as love needed” on her own. I love that so very much. It’s so refreshing, and mature, and adult-like. West isn’t pursuing her. There’s no external circumstance which leads her to this place—it’s she, herself, who chooses this.
We see this over and over in the story. There’s no ridiculous misunderstanding because of lack of communication (well West tries to but thankfully clears it up almost right away). Despite her promise to her late husband to think of Edward Larson, his cousin, as her next husband, she, “didn’t agree to sacrifice [her] own judgement.” In her words, “I promised to consider the idea because it was what Henry wanted. But I may never marry at all. Or I may marry someone other than Edward.” Similarly, West has his own demons to deal with, and his realization that he will have to start trusting, comes (mostly!) from within him.
I also appreciated that Edward, the other contender for Phoebe’s hand, didn’t just (un)propitiously drop in while West was with Phoebe.
(Having said that, I did wonder why, at the start of the story, in a dinner which was for intimate friends and family, Lady Colwick was present. She seems to have been there purely to nudge Phoebe and West into conversing with one another which feels a little contrived, but is something that I can overlook it because the banter between West & Phoebe is totally worth it.)
I like a story where the character’s growth is more internal-driven than because of external conflicts (though those can be great too!), and this fits the bill perfectly!