The second book in James's Four Sisters series after Much Ado About You!
The RULES OF MARRIAGE...according to Miss Annabel EssexAnnabel Essex has one thing on her mind....marriage, but not just any marriage. She has a list of prerequisites, including that he must be wealthy, English and amiable. For she is determined not to ever have to keep the account books any longer, not to have to figure out how to provide for her family. She wants silk, jewels and more money than she knows what to do with! She is also determined that she will not be returning to Scotland. It doesn't matter to her if there is no passion within her marriage. She will do her duty by providing an heir and then the ever practical Annabel will take her pleasure where she can find it. Annabel has decided who the lucky man is to be. Now it is just a case of getting him to ask the question, so when an impoverished Scottish Earl starts showing an interest in her, she is definitely not interested.
A husband must be:
Make that very rich. She's had enough of leaky roofs and thread-worn clothing.
London is the center of the civilized world, and Annabel has a passion for silk and hot water.
Good-looking would be nice, but not necessary. Same for intelligent.
Isn't she lucky? She's found just the man! And her chosen spouse is nothing like the impoverished Scottish Earl of Ardmore, who has nothing but his gorgeous eyes, his brain -- and his kisses -- to recommend him.
So what cruel twist of fate put her in a carriage on her way to Scotland with just that impoverished earl and all the world thinking they're man and wife? Sleeping in the same bed? Not to mention the game of words started by the earl -- in which the prize is a kiss. And the forfeit...
Well. They are almost married, after all!
Her sister Imogen, however, all but throws herself at Ewan, despite the fact that he is not interested causing scandal, but when Imogen realises that she may be getting in deeper than she really wants to be, she takes her sister and her chaperone to his hotel to see Ewan to tell him that she is no longer interested. Whilst they are there they are caught up in a robbery, and when Annabel raises the alarm to get assistance she is seen in Ewan's hotel room and thus is compromised. Because Ewan is a gentleman he has no choice but to offer for Annabel's hand in marriage, but instead of getting married that day, he proposes that they let everyone think that they have married, and travel to Scotland where they will be married for real. Along the way they engage in fun word games where the rewards are kisses, until kisses are no longer enough. When their carriage breaks an axle and they find themselves in a tiny village where only two people live, Ewan thinks it will be possible to show Annabel that it is possible to be poor but still happy, things do not exactly go to plan. In fact, in the end it seems that Ewan is the one who struggles most with their situation. Meanwhile, Annabel's sisters are plotting how they can save her from this marriage that she cannot possible want, and when that plan includes kidnapping Garrett Mayne and forcing him to travel to Scotland with them, well, there's nothing wrong with that either.
Annabel does have her moments where she can be a little irritating, but overall she was a pretty strong character who knows what she wants, and when she gets more than she wants, can't believe her luck.
Ewan is a fantastic hero. Whilst he does have some secrets in his past, and he does hold himself somewhat aloof from people, he is not the typical tortured alpha hero who can only be redeemed by the love of Annabel. He is a man who takes care of his own responsibilities, and some that are not his responsibility as well. He is a man of honour, and integrity and I liked him a lot!
I really liked this book, a lot more than Much Ado About You. I think there are a couple of reasons that I liked it so much more, the first being that it was nowhere near as horse oriented as the first book was. Yes, the fact that Annabel's dowry is a horse was mentioned, and yes there were still references to horse racing but it seemed much more balanced within the story this time. The other reason I really liked this book is that, yes, they were compromised and therefore were on their way to Scotland in a carriage to be married, but there was no instant marriage and then getting to know each other here. Yes, Ewan had the special license ready to go, but instead we have a physical journey to Scotland, where they had put in close proximity to each other, and with a period of courting as they get to know each other and build their emotional connection further. I really enjoyed the kissing game that they played and the building of the sexual tension between Ewan and Annabel. It gave a level of innocence and intimacy between the two that developed throughout the book building beautifully to the conclusion of the book.
In the background we have the developing relationship between Annabel's sister Imogen and the worn out rake, Garrett Mayne which would appear to have been intended as building up to the next book in the series (Taming of the Duke). And yet, we know that whilst Imogen does feature in the next book, Garrett is not her hero. Knowing this now, I can see, however, how the groundwork was also being laid for the future relationship between Imogen and her future hero, Rafe, as well. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the future holds for Garrett.
Can't wait to try and get hold of the third book in the series.