Sheridan Delaney (Danny), third daughter in a traditionally huge Irish family, has always found herself in the thick of things. Particularly if trouble or scandal are involved. So although with some misgiving, her parents allow her to travel to England to visit with her good friend Jules Thornton (nee Sinclair). Jules is of the dreaded English aristocracy, but nevertheless even Danny's mother has to admit that her heritage cannot be held against her. Danny may go to London so long as her aunt and uncle accompany her.
Nicholas Sinclair, a little the worse for wear because of a night finding the bottom of a bottle, stumbles across Danny one night on the docks. Her ship has just docked two days early. He is entranced by her from the first, and gets to meet her when she is attacked by a dock hand. Although it is difficult to say if Nicholas saved Danny from the dockhand or if she saved him from a beating.
Danny and Nicholas spend the night together. When Nicholas awakens, he recalls that he spent the night with a delightful Irish girl whom he thinks (correctly) is of the serving class. He is more than a little put out when he finds she has vanished, and he's told it's with another man. Without knowing she's gone to save her uncle, Nicholas jumps to the conclusion that Danny is a woman of easy virtue.
And then, he finds out she is his house guest...
This book is a great deal of fun to read, primarily because of the delightfully eccentric characters that inhabit it. Nicholas and Jules are played relatively straight - although for members of the aristocracy they have relatively speaking open minds with regard to race or class. Uncle Finney, Aunt Aggie, Emery the deaf butler and Scally the foul mouthed mynah bird add mayhem and hilarity to the mix. The brief glimpse we get of the Delaney's before Sheridan leaves for London is a treat. And Danny is a female lead to be admired - tempestuous and with a quickly fired temper, she is loyal, trusting and not one to back down for a fight. She will say what is on her mind, and will do anything for a friend. Considering her position at the time, that of immigrant Irish worker, it is even more amazing that she is such a strong character. The Irish / English thing is more the resentment against the Irish by the English and Americans, and less an issue for either Nicholas or Danny, which I'm not sure would be very accurate but is certainly typical of both.
I don't know how authentic the tale is; there being more than one strike against Danny and Nicholas ever meeting, yet alone having a romance in this time frame, but it is very funny. The romance is told well, and the story moves swiftly along. To my mind Danny falls in love a bit too quickly, before she even knows the character of the person she recognises as being 'the one', but this is a small flaw in what is otherwise a very original tale.
Handsome Devil is the middle of a trilogy of the Sinclair romances, but it is not necessary to read the previous book, it works well as a stand alone story.