This is the fourth of the Carsington Family novels, and focuses on the youngest and only remaining single brother, Darius. His father challenges him to either take an old family estate that has finally been released from some legal restrictions and make it profitable within a year or settle down and marry a suitably well-dowered woman. Darius considers himself the logical, unemotional brother though as the youngest, he also feels like there weren’t really many roles left to claim for himself. While his father might not care for his work, Darius has actually made a name for himself with his writings on agriculture and animal husbandry. Not about to get forced into marriage, he accepts the challenge even knowing that it might be close to impossible.
The neighboring noble is a friend of his father’s and just so happens to have a young, single daughter in her mid-20s. Charlotte’s father does not know that she was seduced by a scoundrel several years before, and covered up the pregnancy with the help of her new stepmother, preserving her reputation. Instead, her father blames himself for not being more involved in finding her a husband, and he has a great blame to remedy that now with a scientific approach and a house party. Little does he know that she purposely acts in such a manner to keep men uninterested without quite realizing she is trying to repulse, instead just leaving with the impression that she is not quite what they want.
It doesn’t take long for Darius and Charlotte to trip over each in a field. Given the unconventional manner of their meeting, Charlotte gains Darius’ attention who quickly understands the game she is playing from watching her with others. It doesn’t help Charlotte that she can’t help but be antagonistic towards Darius instead of hiding herself as usual, leading to some very entertaining exchanges where Darius is left stuck in awkward conversations with some of the elderly gossips and hypochondriacs of the local community.
Darius proves his worth throughout the novel, especially once a certain young apprentice appears at his estate who strongly reminds Charlotte of the child she had to give up. While there are certainly difficulties and baggage on both sides, once they admit their attraction and decide they want to be together, they quickly reveal their secrets to each other and work together to overcome obstacles rather than using them as a reason to stay apart in some self-sacrificing gesture.
I’m so glad I didn’t burn through Chase when I did my initial romance binge since I have quite been enjoying her novels. They are dependably fun, they don’t get too angsty, and the extra plot drama is usually not overwrought and is wrapped up in a satisfying manner. They are fun, sexy, and yet also very much feel good novels because even when bad things are happening, there is no question that everything will turn out right in the end.