The unlikely love story between Stuart Aysgarth, Viscount Mount Villiars and a local sheep farmer/vicar's widow/con woman extroardinaire. That alone should be a warning to you.
Recently returned from Russia to inherit his estates following his father's death, Stuart finds his uncle Leonard has made a play for his title in his absence, has squandered much of his fortune, and has robbed his houses of anything he could lay hand to. In the legal entanglement that ensues, Stuart is left virtually penniless until he once again has legal claim to his assets. Then, while roaring through the countryside at breakneck speed, his coach kills a lamb owned by one Mrs. Emma Hotchkiss, widow of the local vicar. She becomes a massive thorn in his side in trying to secure restitution for her most promising future breeding stock, but to no avail.
As it turns out, our vicar's wife is also a reformed con woman, and she hatches a plot to get the money from Mount Villiars by a clever confidence scheme. The plot rolls along nicely, and Stuart is so thoroughly enigmatic, he is irresistable. Emma is equally engaging and lovable. That is, right up to the point of them having the most impossibly exciting congress on a wooden chair (of all things!). After that, the plot begins to drag itself into an impossibly knotted state of affairs, which finds our hero & heroine obtaining an artifact (which evil uncle Leonard had stolen from Stuart's estate) by another elaborate con game. Meanwhile, we have Stuart finding closure on his problems with his parents, and Emma sorting out her muddled emotions concerning her not-long-dead husband, Zach.
I felt Ms. Ivory, in her quest to make the characters interesting and multi-dimensional, tried to cram too much into them. It wasn't enough that Emma was a sheep farmer. She also had to be a vicar's widow. But not just any vicar -- a former con-man who plied his trade in London and bilked his flocks, gambled heavily, was impotent, yet somehow managed to win & keep the affections of a young, vibrant and beautiful girl. Who also stayed with him while he drank his life away in the Yorkshire gloom. Not likely, mate.
Stuart was gorgeous and promising as all heroes must be, though his Achilles heel over the artifact seemed a bit contrived. And the second "love scene" was nothing short of embarrassing -- mild bondage, running naked through a hotel hallway -- a bed isn't good enough, let's go to the roof. P-LEASE! They had more chemistry as strangers, and that IS sad.
Get this book if only for the first 1/3 of it -- once they are off the chair, however, there remains little point in continuing.