Polite society has its rules for marriage. But for Ella Quinn’s eligible bachelors, their brides will show them that rules are for the weak of heart…
Phoebe Stanhope is not a typical Lady. As feisty as she is quick witted, no one can catch her, especially when she is driving her dashing phaeton with its perfectly matched horses. And unlike her peers, experience has guarded her against a growing list of would-be suitors. But when she encounters Marcus Finley, what she fears most burns deep within his blue-eyed gaze…
For Lord Marcus, the spark of recognition is but a moment in the love he has held these many years. Now that he’s returned to England, all the happiness he desires rests on Lady Phoebe never finding out that he was the one who turned her heart so cold and distant. He must work fast to gain the advantage—to convince her what she wants is exactly what she denies—but in order to seduce her into his arms, he must be willing to give up more than he can control…
Publisher and Release Date: EKensington, 19 September 2013
Genre: Historical Romance
Time and Setting: England 1806 – 1814
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lady Blue
Marcus Finley is living the life of a privileged second son of a Marquis. At the age of twenty, he is already well versed in gaming, drinking, and women. As his partying ways escalate, his father decides he must put a stop to it before Marcus is beyond redemption. The Marquis arranges to exile him to the West Indies, in the hope that it will be the making of him. Days before he is scheduled to depart, Marcus is attending a party where he meets Lady Phoebe Stanhope. He is immediately smitten, and believes himself in love. He also believes that he will convince Phoebe to take a quick trip to Gretna Green so that she can travel with him to the West Indies as his wife.
The beautiful Phoebe is, in fact, not yet sixteen years old and has not made her début. She is also attracted to Marcus. As she is walking alone, Marcus sees his opportunity to make his move. He approaches her, and she immediately realizes he has been drinking, and intends to leave him. Marcus takes hold of her arm, tells her he loves her, and tries to kiss her. Phoebe struggles, causing him to accidentally brush her breast. The petite Phoebe then proceeds to punch him squarely in the nose and he drops to the floor. Then she begins to berate him, chastize him, and tell him she never wants to see him again. She then retreats to her room, shaken from the encounter. Marcus begins his exile alone, and Phoebe gets on with her life, while holdiing this incident in the back of her mind.
Eight years have now passed. In the intervening years, Phoebe’s brother has married Marcus’ sister, but Phoebe has never married. Marcus has grown into the man his father hoped he would be. Arthur, the older brother of Marcus, and the heir, is terminally ill, and has no son, so Marcus is summoned home.
Marcus, in fact, truly fell in love with Phoebe eight years ago. Now that he is no longer in exile, he has hopes of winning her, since she has never married. He regrets his behavior, and wants to show her that he is a changed and much better man. Phoebe, on the other hand, has never forgotten that incident, and has let it affect her whole existence. When she learns that Marcus is returning and is going to be visiting, she flees to town so she won’t have to encounter him. She plans to avoid him as much as she can, and when she does meet him, she plans on icy politeness.
Fate has a different plan. Two incidents happen where Phoebe is in trouble and Marcus happens to be the one to come to her rescue. Amazingly enough, she does not recognize him, and he decides not to introduce himself, thinking to win her approval before she realizes who he is. Now Phoebe is the one who is smitten by this heroic stranger.
When the truth finally comes out, Phoebe has very mixed feelings. She finally agrees to let Marcus court her, but on her terms. It turns out her terms aren’t leading anywhere as quickly as Marcus would like. So he decides to add seduction to the mix. As the courtship begins to make progress, a new wrinkle is added. There is a villain who wants Phoebe for himself, and Marcus dead.
I found myself liking Marcus very much, but I had mixed feelings about Phoebe. Marcus was willing to go to any length to atone for an act that wasn’t really so heinous. Phoebe was a strong, intelligent woman, yet she permitted an incident that was really only an attempted kiss and an accidental touch to cloud her judgement and affect whole future. I can understand her turmoil when it happened – she was only fifteen years old after all. But she seemed to want to hold on to it, not easily letting go, even when she saw how much Marcus had changed. That is the only drawback to this story. For a début book in particular, it is extremely well written and enjoyable to read. Ella Quinn has captured the time period beautifully, and she writes wonderful dialogue. I found myself reading it in only two sittings. I recommend reading it, and look forward to the upcoming stories of some of the characters we have met in this book.