Lady Jennifer Winwood has been betrothed to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years, but circumstances have prevented their official announcement/ marriage. Finally Lionel officially proposes and she is all too happy to say yes as she has been in love with him for as long as she can remember. No, they have never really had a conversation or shared any intimacy with each other, but he is handsome in a golden pale way. Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, lives on the edge of society ever since he impregnated his stepmother, ran off with her to the continent, and then abandoned her when the baby was born. But Gabriel did not truly sleep with his stepmother and the true culprit is Lionel. Gabriel wants to get revenge on Lionel for what he did to his stepmother and for what has since happened to his own reputation so he decides that he will convince Jennifer to call of the wedding, thereby humiliating Lionel.
Jennifer finds that she enjoys Gabriels' company and has trouble believing all of the rumors that surround him. However, she remains steadfast in her belief that she loves Lionel, even though he remains cold and aloof towards her and hints that he may not really want the marriage. Unbeknownst to her he is also playing on the affection of her cousin, Samantha Newman. Eventually Gabriel realizes that he cannot go through with his plan as it will end up hurting Jennifer and the more he gets to know her, the more he knows that he likes her and does not want to hurt her. Unfortunately Lionel is on to Gabriel's plan and plants a letter that ends up completely ruining her and forcing a marriage between Gabriel and Jennifer. The two are forced into a marriage that both believe the other want. Gabriel needs to convince her that he does want her and that the best does not need to impact their future if only they can move on together.
This was published in the same book as Balogh's "Lord Carew's Bride" but it was still approximately the same length as other novels. I am very glad they decided to republish this and that I ended up getting 2 for 1 really. I have found Balogh's recent works a little too "calm" for my taste, and while this book certainly was not exactly exciting, the characters showed a bit more personality and there was quite a bit going on to keep the story interesting. Jennifer was well written and while I was frustrated with her insistence that she was madly in love with Lionel despite his actions and her own interactions with Gabriel, it was understandable why she behaved why she thought that way. She was innocent and naive, despite her claims to the contrary, and it took quite a lot to convince her that love was not something she felt out of duty, but because she genuinely cared about someone.
Gabriel was great as the tortured and wrongly accused hero who could only be saved by the love of a good woman. And it worked because he really did become a better person as his feelings for Jennifer manifested themselves. I kind of did wish he had bothered to explain the truth about the situation to Jennifer a little sooner. His actions after the marriage while Jennifer was feeling depressed were wonderful- it was obvious that he was trying so hard to make her feel better and work things out the best that he could. I was a little worried that Lionel would not get his comeuppance, but luckily I was wrong on that score and although it's not a big splash, it's enough. Unfortunately towards the end the book does drag on a little bit as Jennifer starts to worry that she will never be able to forgive Gabriel for what he did, which I just found odd as it worked out for the best anyway. The book sets up Samantha's story quite nicely and that review will be coming very soon.
Rating: The book had a really good start and was quite promising, but unfortunately took a turn for the worse near the end. Still fairly good and satisfying.