Ian MacGregor isn’t even officially the Earl of Balfour yet, that title technically belongs to his older brother, who went off to the Colonies and is presumed dead. It’s been nearly seven years and everyone certainly believes Ian to be the head of the MacGregor clan. While they’re not penniless, they don’t have a whole lot of money to keep the estates going, so Ian is looking for a rich bride to support himself, his two younger brothers, his widowed sister and his niece, not to mention the countless servants and tenants they have.
Luckily, Queen Victoria’s love of the Scottish Highlands and her summer visits to Balmoral have made Scotland very fashionable, and the wealthy Baron Altsax really wants his daughter to marry someone with a title, even if it’s a Scottish one. The baron shows up with his two daughters, his son, a widowed sister-in-law and a penniless cousin (the latter two along as chaperones).
It soon becomes apparent that the baron is arrogant, uncouth and pompous, while his widowed son Matthew seems to be suffering from PTSD after being a soldier. He certainly doesn’t live up to his father’s ideals of masculinity, but does seem to enjoy the company of Ian’s sister, Mary Frances. Eugenia (frustratingly called “Genie” for most of the book – is that period appropriate), the eldest daughter, and Ian’s intended, seems incredibly unhappy with the whole arrangement and while she will happily speak to other members of the family, seems to recoil every time she’s asked to get to know Ian better. Her younger sister Hester is cheerful and friendly to everyone, but clearly far too young to be an adequate substitute bride for Ian, who with each new encounter gets more smitten with cousin Augusta (given the horrible nickname “Gussie” by her entire family). Of course, Augusta is penniless and wouldn’t in any way be able to help save the MacGregor fortunes and estates, so a match with her would be both unsuitable and impossible. Finally, there’s the wealthy widowed aunt Julia, who initially seems rather sad, but finds the company of the youngest MacGregor brother to cheer her spirits rather a lot.
Full review on my blog.