When Howard Griffin discovers he is dying he wants to make arrangements for his daughter, Violet. He decides that the hardworking Englishman who has done so well with his company would be a perfect husband for her so he offers him half the company if he marries her now and then comes back to get her when she is old enough for the marriage to be real. Violet is already infatuated with the handsome man and, although sad about her father's passing and her husband having to go back to England, she is hopeful that her father chose well. Three years later Rule Dewar is living his life free and easy in England although he is beginning to feel a strong sense of ennui and wants something to give his life meaning. No sooner does the thought enter his head than Violet shows up from America. The skinny girl he remembers is now a petite and well-filled out young woman and he cannot wait to make the marriage real. Unfortunately Violet has found herself another man and promptly asks Rule for an annulment.
Rule has no intention of granting her request but gets her to agree to a temporary one-month stay so that they can get to know each other. Although Violet believes herself in love with Jeffrey, a man she met back in Boston, and she wants to marry him, she does not make it one month before the possibility for an annulment is ended. However she still wants a divorce and she wants Rule to agree to sell the company to someone who will not sell arms to the South during the inevitable upcoming war between the states. She knows she is falling in love with Rule but she knows that it is an emotion he is unlikely to return. They find a buyer for the company but before things can be completely worked out he is murdered and Rule is the prime suspect. They enlist the help of Rule's well-connected friends and families to help them discover who really killed the buyer and why they are trying to set Rule up for it. Rule wants to keep Violet safe but of course she insist on accompanying him during the final confrontation where Rule realizes that he does know what love is and it is what he feels for his wife.
Violet knows her mind and goes after what she wants but she obviously has some problem with the follow through as she does end up succumbing to Rule eventually. Rule is more interesting and nuanced throughout the novel as he quickly adapts to wanting and needing his wife in his life. Ennui always strikes me as a tad weird and irritating among people who have so much money that they're literally bored with it, but Martin does a great job turning into just one more reason why he is so welcoming of his new bride and it is not really annoying at all. There is plenty of sex between the two of them, but it is rather short and rushed and not all that hot. I wish it had been more explicit and a little lengthier, however I did like how emotional it was. The murder plot was incredibly interesting and I was mostly at a loss for most of it as to who the real murderer was so Martin certainly built the suspense up nicely. I also liked that someone who could easily have been portrayed as a total villain was more nuanced than that.
Previous characters from the other books make plenty of appearances and it definitely borders on annoying-ness how quickly Lizzy and Beth are to accept Violet into their circle of sisters. I'm glad they weren't mean or anything, but they were just a little too warm to be that believable. At the beginning of the book Violet claims she wants out of the armament business b/c she doesn't want to arm friends against other friends, but later on as the book moves she says that she doesn't want to support the South because she is against slavery. Obviously I agree with the second reason more (remaining neutral is the same as siding with the wrong side sometimes) but I wish that had been more clear as it made Violet look a little wishy washy. There was a great side romance involving Violet's cousin Caroline and Rule's best friend, Luke, that was simply wonderful and very emotional and added a lot to the story. It was a nice short little addition that served as kind of a counterpart to Rule and Violet's relationship as they kind of had the opposite problems as them.
Rating: A very romance driven book that satisfied on almost every level. Reading about the development of their relationship was great and very well done.