Lady Clara Fairfax, eldest daughter of the Marquess of Warford and sister to the Earl of Longmore, was raised to marry a duke. The Duke of Clevedon, to be precise, but he ended up falling in love with a dressmaker instead. Not that Clara is lacking in high-born suitors. Twice a week they show up in her mother’s drawing room to ask for her hand in marriage and Clara, well bred lady that she is, politely refuses them. Clara wants to make a difference. She wants to make her mark in the world. However, no matter how wealthy and powerful her father and brother are, how rich and privileged she is, the fact remains that on her own, as an unmarried lady, there is very little she can do. She bestows as much patronage as she can on the girls apprenticed with the Milliners’ Society, but when a girl comes to her, confessing that her brother’s been taken in by a gang of street thieves, she is determined to get the boy back, no matter how difficult or dangerous it proves.
She seeks out Oliver “Raven” Radford, a barrister famous for championing the cause of the poor. Radford was a schoolfriend of her brother’s, but she hasn’t seen him since she was a girl, trying to pummel his unfortunate cousin Bernard for teasing him. Now the odious cousin Bernard is a duke, and through a strange set of events, Raven is second in line to inherit. He has no wish to do so, and does his very best to get his cousin’s financial affairs, not to mention health in order, so the man can go on to re-marry, sire heirs and live a long life, not bothering Raven or his ailing father, who just want to practise law in peace.
While most men are struck dumb by Clara’s staggering beauty (and/or the overwhelming outfits she wears), Raven is merely very curious as to why she has sought him out. Highly intelligent and ambitious, he’s used to being the smartest person in the room at any given time, and doesn’t bother to hide his disdain for the stupidity of others. He wants to become a judge and perhaps even rise to Lord Chancellor one day, and helping Lady Clara Fairfax search the slums of London for a kidnapped street urchin is not the way to go about such things. Yet he cannot forget the little girl who jumped on his cousin’s back and chipped a tooth biting him, and when Clara actually loses her carefully maintained composure and actually yells at him, confessing what a gilded cage she is stuck in, frustrated by all the unfairness in the world and unable to do a thing about it, Raven promises to help, even though he knows it’s a bloody stupid idea. As they work together, Raven is surprised to discover that while she may be angelically beautiful, Lady Clara also has one of the sharpest minds he’s ever encountered, often able to keep up even with him. He begins to understand how stifled she feels by society’s rules for women and keeps going against his better judgement to allow her to participate in the search for the orphan boy.
The urchin in question is eventually rescued, but Clara pays a high price for her impulsiveness while on the rescue mission. Struck down with typhoid fever, she is close to death, and Raven, having been alerted by Clara’s irate maid, takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health, as he already survived it. The high society doctors refuse to even believe a marquess’ daughter could have contracted such a disease and their suggested treatments would kill her for sure. Clara’s dowager aunt has no choice but to accept the obnoxious barrister’s help if she wants her niece to have any chance of survival. During her long recovery, Raven and Clara’s maid work in shifts to monitor and care for her. Nearly a month later, Clara is well again, and the unflappable and arrogant Raven Radford, barrister extraordinaire, has been added to the list of men who want Clara as his wife. Once Clara provokes him enough to confess his true feelings, they just needs to convince her parents that he will be a suitable match for her.
Full review here.