Lady Bathsheba, the widowed Countess Randolph, has no idea how she is going to pull herself and the estate’s her husband left bankrupt, into prosperity again. Her brother-in-law, Matthew, who inherited after her husband, Richard’s, death, is kindly incompetent and she knows he will be no help. She is horrified at the prospect of spending the rest of her life in the country so she comes up with a plan to go to London and marry a wealthy man before her financial situation is exposed. Dr. John Blackmore is visiting his mentor in Ripon when he meets Lady Randolph at the local squire’s dinner and is amazed at how outspoken she is, even if her opinions are not the most popular. But what strikes both of them the most, is the intense attraction they both have for one another. When she gets sick after visiting her sister, Rachel, it is Blackmore that takes care of her and suddenly there is more to their relationship than she had been expecting. But Bathsheba needs money to care for Rachel in keep her in hiding, since a childhood illness left Rachel with the mental capacity of a child.
John wants to get to know Bathsheba better and thinks that she needs something more in her life than just being a countess and wants her to get involved in his hospital St. Bart’s. He has hopes of one day opening up a hospital that doesn’t turn away women in need and can help poor women get through and survive pregnancy and childbirth. They end up running into each other in London quite a bit and become even closer when Bathsheba recommends his services to her new friend, Lady Silverton. Now the idea of being John’s wife is exciting to Bathsheba and she contemplates a life of happiness and freedom from the worry that has plagued her. John’s idea that the poor need to be treated as well as the wealthy has earned his enemies and the husband of a patient of his who died in childbirth is causing him problems and Bathsheba does not know if she can stand being the wife of a man who puts a passion, even if is for a good cause, ahead of his own safety and her peace of mind. John and Bathsheba are both forced to recognize that they can put their pasts behind them and make a new future for themselves full of love.
Bathsheba was the rather horrible villain of Kelly’s book, Sex and the Single Earl, and I remember feeling like there was not enough back-story to explain her behavior and this book certainly provides it. It was incredibly obvious in this book why she would be regarded as the enemy rather than the heroine of a romance novel, I personally loved her and thought she was the perfect material for a romance. Her outspoken-ness bordered on rudeness, she hated country life and made no qualms about it, she wanted money because she wanted a comfortable life and wasn’t above using rather mercenary tactics to achieve her goals. I found that I liked how different she was from most other heroine’s and while the Kelley did make attempts to explain some of her behavior I especially liked that she wasn’t excusing it or trying to make it go away. Bathsheba had had a rather difficult life with a cruel and controlling husband and a father who sent away her sister and told everyone she was dead and that shaped Bathsheba’s life and she spent a good portion of the book admirable trying to atone for her mistakes.
I liked having a doctor for a hero and John was certainly a great example of how a non-lordly romance lead can be written. He was passionate about his work and saving women and children’s lives and that by itself made him so likable. He was able to see past Bathsheba’s coldness and bring out the warmth and happiness that had been stomped out of her by her past, while being forced to recognize that mistakes from his own past had to be overcome as well. I truly felt like Bathsheba and John brought out the best in each other and worked better together than they did apart. He gave Bathsheba a purpose to her life in helping at the hospital and she brought acceptance and peace to his life that he had never experienced. Their relationship progressed very naturally throughout the course of the book as they met and got to know each other and attraction and lust developed into liking and admiration and into love. The sex between them was really hot as well and spread liberally throughout the book.
Rating: A very good book with one of my favorite heroines and a great relationship and fun writing and a fast pace.