After Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, was thrown of one of his prized horses and comatose for more than a week, he has come to realise that he needs to get married and sire an heir before it’s too late. As his main interest and preoccupation is his stable and his horses, he doesn’t really have the time or the patience to go to social events like balls and the like. He asks his younger sister Carolyn for help to make a list of eligible ladies, and his sister also obligingly invites all the suitable ladies that might conceivably interest or be interested in her brother to a house party at her husband’s estate.
The first third of the book is written by Julia Quinn. Miss Gwendolyn Passmore is considered the catch of the season and keeps being absolutely swamped with suitors. She’s actually very uncomfortable with all the attention, and knows that a lot of the other debutantes consider her haughty and aloof because she has trouble figuring out what to say to them. She knows that the younger sister of the Earl of Charters can’t stand her, and so finds it rather amusing that said young lady sends her brother to distract Gwen. Of course the two fall quickly for one another, having spent so much time in close proximity.
The second part is written by Connie Brockway, whose full novels I still haven’t checked out. Kate Peyton isn’t really interested in the Earl of Briarly and a lot more intrigued by the fact that Captain Neill Oakes, formerly her family’s closest neighbour and now a recently returned war hero, is also at the party (Carolyn thought he might be a good match for her widowed BFF, Lady Georgiana Sorrell). She will happily flirt with Briarly to make Captain Oakes jealous though, and it works a treat. Unfortunately, Kate’s brother, who was supposed to be at the house party as her chaperone has run off to do more amusing things, and made Oakes promise he’d keep Kate safe. Kate doesn’t know that years ago, before Oakes went to enlist in the army, he approached her father and asked to marry her, but was rejected as Kate’s father believed him to be too irresponsible. He went to war mainly to prove how serious and dutiful he could be, and now that he’s back, he’s desperate to prove to Kate’s father how honourable he is. He therefore hovers around Kate, scaring off any potential suitors, until he is relieved of his chaperone duties. By that point, Kate has taken matters into her own hands. If Neill won’t make the first move, she will.
The third and final part, where Hugh finally discovers that the perfect woman for him was pretty much right under his nose the whole time, is written by Eloisa James. His sister’s best friend, the widowed Lady Sorell is really quite determined never to remarry. It’s not that her first marriage was particularly bad, but her husband was ill for a long time, and she never wants to risk losing another person she loves. The fact that Hugh has already been rendered comatose because he refuses to delegate the training of his temperamental and erratic horses to others makes her deeply worried for his safety and while she’s not happy about the idea of him marrying someone else, she’s not sure she wants to become his wife either. Once Hugh figures out that she’s the only lady at the house party he’s actually interested in, he needs to use all his wiles to persuade her to accept him.
In November 2014, I read The Lady Most Willing, another of these collaborations, where the same three authors took one part of the book each. That was actually the second of these multi-couple stories, with this being the first. I preferred the premise of this one, with a bunch of marriageable young ladies and gentleman at a houseparty in the country rather than stuck in a Scottish castle, all snowed in, some of the ladies there not entirely voluntarily. All three romances are sweet and engaging, if entirely predictable, but neither couple gets all that much time devoted to them. In this book, at least two of the couples have known each other for a long time, so their sudden passion for one another is not exactly insta-love. It’s only really Gwen and the Earl of Charters who fall for each other very quickly, and that it’s unlikely that they fall so deeply, so fast, is in fact addressed in the story. It’s a perfectly enjoyable little book, and a fairly quick read. I really should try something full length by Connie Brockway, having now enjoyed two of her stories like this.
Judging a book by its cover: In the comment section on one of the recent Cannonball reviews, I ranted good-naturedly about the cover of one of Tessa Dare’s book. I have decided, for the time being at least, to include a section in each of my romance reviews, where I critique the cover – as they are so frequently very bad. This cover, with a slender blond lady with her back to the reader, is perfectly inoffensive. She’s even wearing a period appropriate dress, which is sadly not always the case. Her hair is in an appropriate updo and the background is pleasant enough. I’m unsure of which of the characters this is supposed to be, as if I recall correctly, Gwen is a redhead, Kate has nearly white-blond hair and is very petite, while Georgie is dark haired. Still, as romance covers go, it’s not one of the more objectionable.
Crossposted on my blog.