Continuing on through Madeline Hunter's "The Seducers" series and having read them out of order, I found Adrian Burchard's story my favorite of all.
We were first introduced to Adrian in "The Seducer" where he was assisting St. John in his efforts to get some payback on those who had done serious injury to his family. Adrian is the acknowledged third son of the Earl of Dincaster, yet not truly the earl's son. Rather, it's very obvious from Adrian's dark wavy hair accompanied by dark, deep set eyes, at least part of his heritage is something other than plain old English.
Although not truly accepted in high society, he's found a place with his comrades in the Hampstead Dueling Club and they are a tight bunch indeed. He's also been a protégé of sorts to Wellington with his tasks being a mixture of envoy/messenger/fixer/manager. One suspects he's done a substantial amount of work that includes spying in his travels to other parts of the world. He's a very capable man.
In this story, Adrian has been sent to France by Wellington and the King to bring Sophia Raughley, Duchess of Everdon in her own right, back to France. The duchy of Everdon is rare in that it descends to the female if there is no male heir. Sophia's early life with her father, the Duke of Everdon, has given her absolutely no reason to want anything to do with the title that has now descended upon her. In fact, she's spent 8 years in France after having run away from her father and his unbearable company.
To this end, Adrian finds himself having to literally carry Sophia into the carriage that will begin her journey home. She's unhappy, she's frustrated and yet, she eventually comes to trust and lean on Adrian in circumstances that lead to a role that will soon become the challenge of her life. To further complicate matters, issues from her past come back to haunt her and endanger her life throughout the storyline.
Within this story, we find a lonely, young woman who has lost everyone who loved her including her mother and her twin brother. Being blamed by her father for her brother's death and the accompanying manipulation by her father, she finds trust a very difficult burden. Yet, Adrian is a bulwark against the storms that buffet Sophia and eventually, he realizes he has some very difficult choices to make. He can let Sophia go, or he can find his way through to claiming a woman that includes more than a family, for along with Sophia comes the role of standing in her stead in Parliament and assisting her in life with major decisions that affect all things Everdon. In making the decisions that will lead to this life, Adrian has mixed emotions that involve male pride, his own social standing and his strong love for Sophia.
We get to be there for the ride. A lovely romance.