Marcus Reese, Duke of Essex, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She's a vicar's widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus's well-ordered life to make him feel. . .completely out of control.
Hannah can't help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she's embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger--an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart--making her want to do so much more than "act" the role of blissful bride. . .
This was a pleasant read with well written characters, humour and all the drama and refuse-to-admit-we-have-attraction a good romance requires. I particularly enjoyed that the female characters did not fall headlong into stereotypes of the period or genre. They remained feminine, somewhat bound by societal rules but also had intellect, compassion and strength. Hannah, as a vicar's widow, is able to explain some of her meeker behaviours on upbringing and her station during her first marriage yet leaves no doubt as to her true feelings and is willing to bypass propriety when warranted. Linden writes her as a flushed out character who has a belief code that she lives by but who also has true emotions, reactions and considers her instinctive reactions against public expectation rather than swooning or turning to hysterics as other authors would have her do. Marcus and David Reece are also more than stereotypes once you turn a few pages, bringing dimension to the various relationships in this novel. The inclusion of Hannah's daughter, Molly, is handled very well. She serves as motive for Hannah's actions and as a means to explore the personalities of several characters by way of their interactions with her. Any good romance needs some drama to sustain it and Linden opens the story with a dramatic trickery that forces our reluctant lovers together. She is correct in knowing that more adventure is needed later to urge the characters to their final realizations, but the sub plot concerning counterfeit money and a nefarious challenger to out hero did not fit as well as it could have. Hinted at from the beginning, too little detail was given to the reader until the end. It made it hard for this reader to care very much about this part of the story. The only merit I found in this 'mystery' was in the brief interactions between brothers David and Marcus and then between Hannah and Marcus. I did enjoy seeing the brothers interact as a team rather than their usual adversarial relationship. A nice Saturday read...and yes, I am curious about the continuation of the Reece family romances in What a Rogue Desires (David's story) and A Rake's Guide to Seduction (little sister Celia's story). Perhaps I'll look one of them up some other Saturday.