I picked this one up because after reading Fool Me Twice, since I wanted to read the story of the Duke of Marwick’s brother and Elizabeth Chudderley. However, I think I may have been in more of a Loretta Chase mood since I also picked up Miss Wonderful around the same time to learn more about Alastair Carsington, the brother whose engagement Rupert refers to mournfully a few times in Mr. Impossible. Basically, it is not that this is a bad romance novel, but I think I was in the mood for a more humorous romance. Not that this one is darky by any means – on her website, Duran even says she worried that Elizabeth’s story would be dark (from what I gather, she was a minor character in some earlier Duran romances) since she has been rather scandalous in society, becoming black out drunk on more than one occasion. However, Michael adds a good balance to prevent the novel from becoming too angst driven as Duran shows the softer side of Elizabeth, a woman who flourishes in the country but performs a role for society in the city.
Michael de Grey is the second son of a duke, and his brother has already inherited the title. For most of their lives, Alastair has been his brother’s protector and sponsor, even paying for the hospital Michael de Grey runs. However, since Alastair’s wife died, Alastair has made discoveries about his wife, poisoning his views of anything related to her and turning him off the idea of remarriage forever. As a result, he now sees it as Michael’s duty to marry an appropriate woman and bear an heir to continue the line, and he has no scruples in how to enforce this. Since Alastair is threatening Michael’s funds and his hospital, he decides to teach Alastair a lesson by disappearing into the country, where he poses as a country doctor in Cornwall. It is here that he meets Elizabeth Chudderly when he finds her passed out in his rose bushes after a night of heavy drinking. Though he has never met her, he knows her reputation.
As the novel progresses, Michael finds himself surprised – despite the drinking and rose bushes incident, Elizabeth does not live up to her reputation, instead taking great interest in her tenants and the town, people she deems herself responsible for. She doesn’t know Michael’s true identity, but she too must find an appropriate person to marry due to her deceased husband’s bad financial investments, and neither a country doctor nor a duke’s second son are the answer to that dilemma.
Of course, Michael’s identity does not stay secret long, and it causes a bit of a rift between the two. Duran portrays Elizabeth very sympathetically, someone who was caught in a bad marriage and then went the opposite extreme when she finally discovered freedom when she became a widow. Elizabeth’s unluckiness in love is all the more frustrating given her close relationship with her parents, who were very much an example of a good marriage. Overall, this is a solid romance though Michael is a rather average hero – I liked Elizabeth and her story, but the sparks and the chemistry between them weren’t that notable at all. I was actually more interested in one of Elizabeth’s friend and his wife, the result of a previous novel.