This was a light and airy Victorian romance, just what I needed after slogging through the vampire politics in the last couple of books I read. I have somehow missed reading anything by Connie Brockway before, but I read a glowing review of this one and decided to try it. It was available on my library Overdrive, so it was an easy decision and I really enjoyed it.
Lady Evelyn has always known she’s not beautiful in comparison to her mother and sister, and has instead become the one in the family to manage things. So when her aunt elopes, leaving her wedding planning business, Evelyn steps in to take over. After all, how difficult could that be? As it turns out, more difficult that she thought – there are several disastrous events with melting ice sculptures and white doves tipsy on fermented grain – and she has one last chance with a wealthy client from America. All she has to do is convince Justin Powell to let her rent his country home for the wedding.
Justin is considered to be somewhat of a lady killer, pretty to look at but not really that intelligent. At least, that is the cover he has assumed to hide the fact he’s a spy. Evelyn is convinced that he is exactly what he appears, after an encounter with him when she was fifteen – she spotted him leaving a woman’s bedroom, looking disheveled, and assumed he was having an affair. He extracts a promise from her not to say anything, and gives her a note with a vow she can ask anything of him and he will give it to her.
So now she needs to call in that favor by renting North Cross Abbey for the wedding. At first he resists, telling her that it will interfere with his bird watching but eventually gives in, with the stipulation that he is able to be there as well. It turns out that he is expecting a shipment of a ‘diabolical machine’ that he is supposed to hide at his estate, so having a group of people about will provide him with a reason to be there. He promises Evelyn that he will stay out of her way while he wanders about the countryside to search for the elusive ‘Bubo Formosa Plorimus’.
This sets into motion an entertaining tale of espionage and mayhem, with Evelyn working to create the perfect wedding and Justin trying to figure out who the master spy is that wants the mysterious shipment. In between, they trade banter and discover their feelings for each other. It’s well written, and the secondary characters are just as entertaining – Beverly, the butler who was Justin’s batman in the war and Merry, a seamstress and companion to Evelyn, do their best to fan the flames of romance.
Overall, this was a sweet romance -Evelyn could have been a typical bluestocking, and yet she came across as strong and witty; Justin was an admirable hero, not so much a rake as people thought, but still a handsome and charming man who made his own way in the world. He could see Evelyn in ways no one else could, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want from romance?