A rather improbable premise, involving a long-lost twin, is carried off with flair in this fast and fun read. Charlotte Cameron has become a social pariah in London since she helped her sister to jilt the powerful Duke of Colster, Phillip Maddox (see Maxwell's previous novel, "The Price of Indiscretion".) She has so few friends, due to Phillip's wrath, that she is flattered to be befriended by the sixtyish Laird MacKenna, who tells Charlotte that they have a common enemy in the Duke. MacKenna goes back home to Scotland, but soon invites Charlotte for a visit. She gladly accepts, suspecting that he may offer her marriage. En route to his estate, her carriage stops to pick up a stranded traveler, and it is none other than Phillip! Phillip is in Scotland because he received a note telling him that his twin brother, Justin, who he thought died at birth over thirty years ago, instead was kidnapped by MacKenna, and is now living on his estate. It seems that the MacKennas have an ancient feud with the Maddoxes. Phillip and Charlotte are at first very hostile to one another, as well as suspicious. But there is also a strong undercurrent of attraction between them as they share the confined carriage. It intensifies after they encounter attackers and are forced to escape into the Scottish countryside and spend a night alone together...and their adventure is just beginning.
Both Phillip and Charlotte are lonely, burdened by duty, and emotionally needy. Phillip is responsible for a dukedom, he has no family, his wife died in childbirth, and he has been celibate ever since. He still feels the humiliation of being jilted, even though many months have passed and it was not a love match. Charlotte is parentless, responsible for her younger sister, and guilt-ridden for having moved her sisters from America to England, where they are now despised. At the age of twenty-seven, she wonders if she will ever marry, ever find love. This hapless pair is clearly due some joy and affection...can they overlook their past and find it with each other?
I like this faced-paced story with its death-defying escapes and exhilarating romance. The couple's literally overnight attraction to each other feels genuine in light of their passionate exchanges and vulnerable circumstances. The love scenes are sweet and relatively modest, but the relationship itself is all-consuming, uninhibited, and lots of fun. Charlotte is a straightforward, likeable heroine who behaves smartly in the face of danger, and admirably follows her instincts and her heart. Phillip is endearing in his half-hearted efforts to reject Charlotte as unsuitable duchess material, all the while fantasizing about their life together. I like the story's resolution, which is quick and satisfying, with no silly game playing. It might be helpful, however, to have a few more background details to add depth to the story. The writing is clear-cut and flows easily - not earth-shattering, but very pleasing. Ms. Maxwell's books generally have a "feel-good" quality and leave the reader smiling. This one is no exception.