Fourth in Layton's series which began with The Cad, The Chance is Rafe's story. At the end of The Challenge, we saw that Lord Rafe Dalton was again struck by the beauty of Lady Annabelle Wythe, just as he had been in The Choice. He also feels very sorry for Annabelle, since she'd been in love with her childhood friend Damon Ryder (The Choice) for years, only to see him marry Gilly.
So Rafe decides that he will try to court Annabelle, though he doesn't have much hope that she will return his interest - after all, he tells himself, he's a very plain-looking man, with ugly red hair and a complete inability to make pretty speeches. However, Annabelle seems to show some interest, although largely playing Rafe off against several other suitors.
Then Rafe's old friend Eric returns wounded from India, needing somewhere to stay for a few days; his beautiful sister Brenna is with him. And circumstances contrive to compromise Rafe and Brenna, so that Rafe is obliged to offer Brenna marriage in order to retrieve her reputation. He likes Brenna, and is attracted to her, so it isn't such a hardship; his only problem (and hers) is that he is in love with Annabelle.
This is where the book becomes really interesting. Rafe is a very insecure, under-confident man when it comes to personal relationships; he can never quite understand why his close friends, such as Drum and Ewen Sinclair, seem to like him. And we discover that his insecurity comes from always having been second-best in his family relationships, being made to feel the outsider - which is, of course, what makes him sympathise with Annabelle.
In this respect, Rafe has more in common with Brenna than he realises, since she has also suffered more than her fair share of disappointments: one fiance was killed in the war, and another rejected her for another woman. So the really beautiful part of this book is how these two damaged individuals manage to heal each other and repair each other's self-esteem.
The reason I give this book four stars instead of the five I've given every other book in Layton's series is that I found Annabelle's behaviour profoundly annoying, and I couldn't understand why Rafe took so long to see through it. He kept finding excuses for her, long after all his friends were seeing her as the selfish dog-in-the-manger she was.
Now, I want Drum's story!