A year before the story starts Tanner Blake, Duke of Malvern, comes home to England to tell Lady Lydia Daughtry that her fiance, Captain Fitzpatrick, has died. Before his death, Fitz, had tasked Tanner with taking care of Lydia and had in fact basically told him to marry her. But Lydia is shy and reserved and takes time getting over the man she thought was the love of her life and Tanner is not sure how to go about wooing he. In addition he can't help but feel guilty about taking over from where Fitz left off and once he finally realizes that he genuinely wants Lydia he worries that she will think he only wants her because Fitz asked him to. Lydia is worried about all the new changes going on in her life as her wild twin sister Nicole is getting married and begins to think that she needs to start taking some risks in her life as well. Starting with enjoying the company of both Tanner and his friend, the rakish Justin Wilde as the go on a trip.
Tanner is semi-engaged to his cousin, Jasmine, a chatterbox who has convinced everyone she is completely airheaded. However, on their journey Lydia begins to think that Jasmine is hiding some secrets and while she enjoys some verbal sparing with Justin, it is Tanner she is falling in love with. While Tanner and Justin are looking to discover who has been switching out the Malvern jewels with paste, Lydia and Tanner take opportunities to go riding, get to know each other, and find ways to sneak off. But when Jasmine turns up at night with a bruise on her cheek Lydia confronts her and discovers that she is in the middle of quite the jewel heist/ little lovers quarrel. She wants to spend as much time with Tanner as possible and get to know his estate, as it is where she plans to spend the rest of her life and raise her children, but everyone first needs to resolve the issue as their is a murderous jewel thief on the loose.
I did not have very high hopes for this after reading How to Tame a Lady which I really did not like and especially did not like her heroine. While Lydia is the complete opposite of Nicole, as she is quiet and contemplative and likes to read and spend time in the country, it was still rather hard to get a handle on her. One minute she was thinking she needed to completely revamp her life and then she was completely ready to settle down for a life in the country. One second she was flirting with Justin and then all of a suddens she was deeply in love with Tanner. And her falling in love with Tanner was done rather abruptly and a little oddly; it was a very calm love that just kind of overtook both of them, and once again I wasn't completely sure what to make of it. Tanner was not any easier as he seemed to genuinely care about Lydia, but he didn't want her to feel indebted to him so he agrees to let Justin flirt with her so that she can have a choice.
Once again my biggest problem with her writing is the "banter" that takes place between her characters. Maybe people back then really talked like this so this makes me an anti-realist, but I just could not stand it. It came across as blabbering about nothing, didn't further the plot, and was just rather boring- I kept trying to think of it as flirting but that did not really work. Luckily, it didn't take up as much room in this book as it did her other as I would have just been forced to put it down. The best part of this book was Jasmine, the devious and yet somehow completely addle-brained cousin who really remained a complete mystery throughout the book. She lied, she disappeared, she tricked people, and was just overall very hard to peg and a fun addition the book. The jewel thieving was also very interesting, unfortunately more so than the romance.
Rating: I found myself enjoying Jasmine and the jewels more than Tanner and Lydia, which was sad as individually I did like these two characters. Probably 2 1/2 hearts.