Tess Hamlin, being a rich and beautiful heiress, could have her pick among the eligible men, and in fact, has turned down several offers of marriage. No man has captured her interest or affections, until at a ball she meets handsome war hero, Brenn Owen, the new Earl of Merton. Brenn is equally enamored with the captivating Tess, plus he must marry a rich heiress in order to afford the cost involved with restoring his estate back to its original glory.
The circumstances that bring them to marry are most unusual indeed. As a lark, Tess makes a bet with her closest rival, which grows into a wager among several bored debutantes at the ball. Whoever garners the first marriage proposal wins. When the bet becomes public, Tess' brother insists she save her reputation by marrying Brenn, who has offered for her. Initially she refuses, but once she discovers her irresponsible brother has gambled away her fortune, she has no choice but to marry quickly in order to save face, and insure she ends up with a rich husband.
Tess and Brenn's mutual attraction and passion for each other leads to temporary happiness. Tess is unaware of his lack of finances, and the dilapidated state of her husband's home. Brenn is still in the dark that his rich heiress is now penniless. When they reach his Wales estate, the secrets are revealed. Will their secrets shatter their trust in each other, or will love conquer all?
Cathy Maxwell's books are a hit and miss proposition for me. One will be really good, and the next will be okay, but nothing special. Unfortunately, this book basically falls into the nothing-special category. It started off well with interesting, likeable characters. I enjoyed Tess' little wager and felt that was an original element of the story. In fact, the story was above average until Tess and Brenn reached Wales, and then it deteriorated. Especially when Tess became interested in the local folklore and the fairy folk. From there, the story became more unbelievable and felt rather forced.
If you've never read Ms. Maxwell before, I wouldn't recommend beginning with this one. Probably the best book of hers I've read thus far would be THE WEDDING WAGER, so that would be my suggestion to begin with. If you're a Maxwell fan, you may still find this worth checking out.