Elinor Sterling is the second widowed Lady Standon and when she sees James Tremont, the Duke of Parkerton, leaving the small house she and her fellow widows have been relegated too by the Duchess of Holindrake, she assumes that he is a solicitor. James is not quite sure what to make of this gorgeous woman who has no idea who he is and he is shocked to find himself agreeing to help her find a husband. Elinor needs to marry a many of very high social standing so that her stepfather, Lord Lewis, will not retain guardianship of her younger sister, Tia. Lewis is an evil man who had already sold Elinor into a loveless marriage to a man with homosexual tendencies, and she dreads to think what he will do to her sister. James' brother and sister are gravely concerned that he has begun behaving in a most improper manner and his servants worry that he has finally given in to the family "madness."
Her friends, the other widowed Lady Standon's who had once been her enemies but are now her close friends, are worried, but get into the spirit of things and hope that James can help her find that passion is more important than a ducal title. James knows he should tell Elinor the truth about who is but he wants her to fall in love with him, not just his title. Elinor begins to think that a passionate affair before marriage may be just the thing to prepare her for the life of duty she will lead with one of the two dukes on her list. James knows that neither of the dukes on her list, )and why is he not on there?) will be completely unsuitable and he sets about wooing her. Meanwhile her stepfather is up to his typically awful behaviors and James knows this is one thing he can give her- her sister's safety. But what will she do when she discovers who he really is: fall in love or run away?
Elinor and James worked together because they both wanted to be with each other and enjoyed time in each other's company. Unfortunately, that is as good as the book gets. Elinor was annoying for being far too practical and why did her evil ex-husband have to be gay? I guess from previous books I am supposed to know that James is typically staid and uptight, but because I have not read them it was hard to get behind the whole worry over him acting out of character. Maybe if the change had been gradual and spread throughout the current book- the one I was actually reading? There were a few sex scenes, not particularly hot and I ended up skipping through them really. I am not normally a fan of secret hidden identities because it's a big secret that causes horrible angst, but it really worked here because it didn't fall into the pitfalls that others do.
I absolutely hated the writing style in this book. It seemed to basically consist of everyone thinking it was so amusing that there was a secret, or thinking how clever they were for acting in such a supposedly "mad" manner when nothing was really amusing and nothing was particularly "mad." I think a good portion of the dialogue between Elinor and James could be classified as banter, but I am reluctant to give it that term as it seemed as if they were talking at cross purposes. Well this book is definitely one for referring back to previous characters in the series and several other related series. I spent the first 20 pages doing "What? Who is this?" over and over again. The book also assumes that I know information that I don't. I was also confused because normally authors would use this referring time to get me interested in the other books and it had the opposite effect: Felicity, Duchess of Holindrake, comes across as awful and I can't ever imagine reading about such a horrible heroine.
Rating: Really pretty awful all around and I don't think I'll buy another Elizabeth Boyle book, and I don't know how I got through it.