Lady Viola Gambol is not at all pleased that her deceased father has arranged a not at all advantagious marriage to the Marquess of Bamph. He is in desperate need of her money, but she is not prepared to give herself to some random man in exchange for money. Her brother, the Duke of Fanshawe hires Julian Devize, to help with the marriage contracts. Julian is actually the second son of a baron, but he has stuck it to his family by becoming a working class stockjobber. When his family hires him to find his older brother in a brothel, he is startled to discover that a young virgin is being put up for auction without her knowledge, a young woman with connections to his employer, so he decides to purchase her. Unfortunate this requires that he "borrow" some money from the Duke. He takes Viola, whom he believes to be a Miss Mary Andrews, back to his place, tells everyone they're married, and after only a little ado decides that the two of them should marry. Viola believes herself in love and is thrilled that she has found a man who loves her for something besides her money.
But the Duchess of Berkshire recognizes Viola and she wants her own son, Simon, to marry her, so she plants a seat of doubt in Viola's ear and Viola runs off. Still thinking that she is Mary, Julian goes to the Duke to find Mary, but the Duke believes he is talking about the real Ma
ry and tells him the marriage is off. Then Julian hears that the woman has eloped with a Mr. Rampling, who just happens to live very close to Julian's sister and her husband so he hightails it down there to meet them. There Viola is pretending to a nursemaid to a drunken woman and helping the homely Lucy Rampling prettify herself- even if she is only interested in Alex Devize, Julian's brother, whom she believes is far too good for her. Viola just wants to know that Julian really does love her and plan to marry her, but thinks he just wants to make her his mistress. Much hijinks ensure as everyone believes that someone is marrying someone they're actually not, but in the end we manage to sort everything out- quite hilariously!
Viola is quite a bracing, and very easily dislikable, character who manages to deftly avoid complete horribleness. She is selfish, she is spoiled, she is quite judgmental, and she runs roughshod over everyone around her. Matters are helped because oftentimes she is right about what she is doing, but I had the most problems with her treatment of money and how she just threw it around. I can see her being a very troublesome character, but I found her interesting. Julian was a tad bizarre as the lordly son who bucked convention and alienates the ton by some barely legal business practices. They had some quite intriguing scenes between them but I wish there had been more. I like to have a few scenes where the protagonists spend some quality time together, just being nice to each other. The sex was hot enough, but there were some odd scenes where he was in such a hurry that the experience wasn't very good for her. I found it a little odd that Viola admired the fact that Julian was so disliked- she wanted a husband who inspired some feelings and she just didn't care which.
All of Lejeune's books that I have read have featured extensive mistaken identity plots that miraculously manage to be mostly amusing and not too annoying. Although there were definitely times I wanted to just have everything sorted out RIGHT NOW because it was getting a tad ridiculous, the vast majority of the time I was wonderfully amused and loving every minute of it. I think it's because something was always happening- there is very little downtime or fluff in the book.The cast of side characters, though quite extensive, is truly amazing and completely wonderful! Viola's brother is a delightfully amusing character who says the most ridiculous things because of his obsession with food, his obtuseness, and his own self interests in the oddest things. Some of my favorite scenes and quotes came straight from his mouth, including one where he refers to Bamph's mother as "the she-Bamph." Hysterical! There were a couple of side romances in this, from Julian's sister and her husband to Alex and Lucy and they added quite a bit to this book.
Rating: I did enjoy this book, but my favorite parts were really the parts where romance wasn't really involved- the funny parts for instance. Interesting, but not quite the best romance.