Camille Croft has been in love with Eric Ford, her brother's friend, ever since she first met him. And she's not very good at hiding it, either. To her, in her own view a lumbering, large and plain woman who doesn't know how to behave in Society, he is the most handsome man she has ever seen. But, despite his kindness towards her, he treats her like a little sister.
Eric, though he does his best to hide it, is in love with Camille too. He won't act on his feelings, however, because he suffers from recurring bouts of malaria and, as he sees it, there is no guarantee that he will live a long life. He can be struck down by an attack at any time, and although he's recovered each time so far, it's not guaranteed. He feels that it wouldn't be fair to Camille to let her tie herself to a husband who could be an invalid, or worse.
Enter Nell Baynes, a woman every bit as beautiful as Camille feels herself plain - and Nell's cousin and guardian, who begins a courtship of Camille. Jealousy finally prompts Eric to tell Camille how he feels about her - but with about 150 pages of the book left to go, what kind of spanner is going to be thrown in the works?
This would, in my opinion, have been a much better book without the dramatic plot and the involvement of the secondary characters, Nell and her cousin. There was more than enough material for Layton in dealing with Eric's fears about his illness and Camille's lack of self-confidence and, instead of introducing irrelevant and uninteresting characters, she could have spent more time showing the development of Eric and Camille's friendship and Eric's growing realisation of his feelings for Camille. I would have enjoyed the book far more had Layton developed the plot in that way.
Nevertheless, as always it was good to see characters from previous books, though as in each case Layton seems to focus on Drum and Rafe and their spouses, with brief glimpses of Gilly and Damon. While Ewen Sinclair, one of my favourite characters from the series, does make an appearance in this book, it's almost entirely offstage, and Hathaway Wycoff is only mentioned. More of these two in future books, Layton! Although, since Gilly's younger sister Betsy seems to be of marriageable age now, I suspect that her story is about to come - and if that's the case, we'll have to see more of Ewen. Or so I hope!