Peckham is quite unusual in the historical romance world, because she writes stories about borderline Alpha-hole heroines and the I guess Beta (but not pejoratively) heroes that love them. This book takes that idea a step further, introducing an element of power play into the book.
Plot: The Duke of Westmead has worked relentlessly to bring his family fortune back from disrepair. He now overcompensates for the poverty of his youth by lavishing financial affection on his little sister in lieu of actual affection, a concept he isn’t entirely comfortable with. Next up is securing the line with an heir, which should be as transactional as possible so he can keep his visits to a BDSM club in London where he sets down his worries for a brief time without getting judged by some delicate aristocratic lady. His sister wants to throw a party that people will talk about for decades to bring in eligible young women for him to court, and so absolutely must have the services of Poppy Cavendish, Botanist Exceptionalle and belligerently independent woman of limited means. Poppy is about to be kicked out of her home because laws of inheritance ignore the existence of women, and she fears that on top of losing her home she may lose the full contents of her greenhouse – her entire business and a collection that took years to assemble and will cost a fortune to move. Both badly need someone to lean on and no idea how to let anyone in. Shenanigans ensue.
Y’all this book is sweet as hell. There is so much love for the characters, both primary and secondary. There is so much compassion for different ways people choose to live. The surprise with which our protagonists face previously unknown horrors such as respect, humility, and genuine affection is as heart warming as it is funny. Conflict is mostly internal and characters mostly behave like adults. Where they don’t, they are held to account, learn and grow. There are some Big Misunderstandings, but they are so consistent with who the characters are and are handled so well that despite that being among my least favourite tropes, it works well here. Also, you can learn some stuff about plants.