Major Calbourne Rutherford returns to England on the trail of an assassin, only to find he’s become Lord Ashendon, with the responsibility for vast estates and dependent relatives. Cal can command the toughest of men, but his wild half-sisters are quite another matter. They might just be his undoing.
When he discovers that Miss Emmaline Westwood, the girls’ former teacher, guides them with ease, Cal offers her a marriage of convenience. But strong-minded and independent Emm is neither as compliant nor as proper as he expected, and Cal finds himself most inconveniently seduced by his convenient wife.
Emm knows they didn’t marry for love, yet beneath her husband’s austere façade, she catches glimpses of a man who takes her breath away. As pride, duty and passion clash, will these two stubborn hearts find more than they ever dreamed of?
This is great start to a new series by one of my favourite authors.
We have a heroine who has had terrible things happen in her past, which resulted in her being disowned by her father and forced to return to her old school to find work and somewhere to live. Her marrying the hero – a newly-minted earl – is not that unbelievable, as she did come from a well-off background, and the unusual circumstances made the relationship convincing.
I liked that she was at an age where she knew her mind, and that she had learnt a thing or two about life (she’s twenty-six). I also like the acknowledgement that as a woman who no longer had any connections she had few options for her future. She had to make choices that would leave her secure, and we see how difficult life could be for women a couple of centuries ago.
I liked the hero, and that he had no idea how to handle his family. He followed all the standard behaviours of the time, and had some attitudes that were completely typical of aristocratic Regency men, but he had to learn to compromise. He cared for his family despite himself, even if he had trouble showing it.
The relationship between the two was believable because it took its time developing, and both characters had a thing or two to learn. Even though the hero thinks he is doing the best thing at every turn, he takes his time revealing himself to the growing number of women in his life.
I’ve enjoyed a few books recently that have used Bath as the main setting (as opposed to London), and this is another one. There’s something so “Jane Austen-era” about the place, and its compact size means there’s a real sense of community.
Gracie takes risks with her plotting, just as she did with the first instalment in her previous series. Hero and heroine have little to do with each other throughout the first half of the book, while we deal with other plot points and get to know the cast of characters.
I’m not actually sure how the author manages to pull this off, but she does. I suspect it’s because all the characters are genuinely interesting, and there is a lot going on beyond the romance.
Some authors simply write better than others, and Anne Gracie is one of the best in this genre. I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series.