Having read More Than a Mistress earlier this month, I was looking forward to reading the story of Lord Ferdinand Dudley, younger brother of Jocelyn Dudley, Earl of Tresham.
Ferdinand arrives in the village of Trellick in time for the village fair, and finds himself entranced by both the village, and one particular village girl in particular. After dancing with her and quite rashly kissing her, they part ways. The next morning, Ferdinand thinks that maybe that was a mistake, for she may be one of his new neighbours, perhaps even the vicar's daughter. He has recently gained ownership of Pinewood Manor and has come to see what kind of money pit he has acquired, as the person he won it off of whilst gambling had never seen the property either.
There is, however, a rather large problem to deal with when he arrives at Pinewood Manor. He finds that it is already occupied by the same village girl, who is Miss Viola Thornhill. Ferdinand has the deeds to the property in London, that say that he owns the property, whereas Miss Thornhill insists that she is the rightful owner, having been given the property two years previously. There is a stand off from which neither party is prepared to backdown, and they both end up staying in the house until such time as the appropriate documentation can be obtained and this misunderstanding cleared up once and for all. Of course, this is far from a satisfactory situation, especially in relation to the damage that will be done to Miss Thornhill's reputation.
Initially all Miss Thornhill's friends do their best to drive Ferdinand away, but he gradually wins them over with his friendliness and charm. However, Miss Thornhill has a secret from her past that she is trying to keep hidden, and is not as innocent as she appears to be. Then again, Ferdinand is not quite as worldly as he appears either.
I have to say that this book was a disappointment. For once, I think that there were some crucial differences between this book and the other Mary Balogh's books that I have read in terms of plot, so I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't. The fact that Ferdinand was VERY inexperienced sexually and that Miss Thornhill..well, just wasn't, was something quite unusual, and yet it just didn't work. The reasoning behind why Ferdinand has "saved" himself was explained, and yet just didn't really cut it, and similarly the reasons for why Viola had done the things she had done were explained, but I guess weren't compelling enough for me.
I wasn't drawn into the world of this book, with many of the secondary characters either very one dimensional or just plain annoying. For example, with Viola's mother, there was very little in the way of explanation of why she had done the things she had done. In fact, the most interesting characters to me were the ones that we had previously met in More Than A Mistress.
Overall, the first REALLY disappointing Mary Balogh that I have read.