Grace Eversleigh, companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham, was content with her life - not precisely satisfied, but she knew things could have been worse - right until the moment she and the duchess are held up by highwaymen.
Then things get complicated.
A kidnap, plenty of insults and numerous arguments disrupt everything, but that's not half as distracting as Jack Audley - who may, or may not, be the lost duke. The charming rogue has no desire to go along with the duchess' plans, but he stays for the pleasure of Grace's company. Because, really, if a man's world is about to be overturned, he surely deserves some comfort.
Yet as the duchess' plans progress, Jack realises it's more than comfort he wants from Grace. But if Jack truly is the duke, can she ever be anything more?
With this duology (this and Mr Cavendish, I Presume
) Julia Quinn attempts a new idea, which sadly doesn't quite pay-off. Oh, this book retains her wonderful dialogue and sparkling wit, but it doesn't meet her usual standards. There's too much happening off-scene (unsurprising, as it makes up the other book), which detracts from the action here.
As a character Grace doesn't suffer too much, but then her role and history is clearly defined - companion to the duchess, friend to Thomas, love interest for Jack - and she emerges as a typical JQ heroine.
Not so for Jack. I'm not sure why, exactly but I never warmed to him. Perhaps, as Amelia puts it, he's `a little too charming'. He certainly has an interesting history, but for me all the vital facts emerge too near the end, when they reach Ireland. By which point I'm just not that interested anymore.
The question of who the Duke is dominates - naturally - and it often overwhelms the development of Jack's character, adding to the feel of a tale half told.
This tale isn't bad, and when paired with `Mr Cavendish, I Presume' it reads much better. It just isn't up to JQ's usual standard.