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Customer Review

on 18 April 2004
Genova Smith, spinster daughter of a naval captain, is befriended by the Ladies Trace and taken with them as their companion to spend Christmas at Rothgar Abbey, home of their great-nephew the Marquess of Rothgar. On the way, they are obliged to take a baby into their care, to be handed to its father at the next inn. The 'father' turns out to be the Maquess of Ashart, their other great-nephew, who strenuously denies all responsibility for the child. Genova doesn't believe him, however - and Ash's behaviour is very strange, given that he freely admits knowing and having been intimate with the child's mother.
Ashart, who has been in some disfavour with the king of late, suspects a plot to discredit him - and he thinks that the plot originates with Rothgar. So he takes advantage of having been caught in a compromising position with Genova to claim that they are engaged, since this gives him an excuse to accompany his great-aunts to Rothgar Abbey.
Readers of the Malloren series will be aware that Rothgar's mother went mad and strangled his younger sister. Ashart is the nephew of the late Marchioness of Rothgar, and his grandmother, by whom he was brought up, was her mother - and it is the Dowager Marchioness of Ashart who feeds the hatred within Ash for the Malloren clan. So Ashart is far from kindly-disposed towards his cousin.
Rothgar, on the other hand, sees his cousin's presence in his home as an opportunity to heal the rift, putting past enmities behind them. As he says to Bryght, he wants to make a proper cousin out of Ash. But will he succeed?
As for Genova, while on the one hand Ash infuriates her, on the other hand she has never before been so attracted to a man. The kisses he trades with her for guineas (for the child's upbringing) make her burn in a way she has never experienced. Yet he's a marquess and she's a nobody. He also confesses to her, as they become closer and become friends, that he has to marry for money - in fact, she's well aware that his chosen bride is also at the Abbey. So their relationship has no future - unless she's prepared to accept his offer to make her his mistress.
This is another excellent book from Beverley, offering what many of her loyal readers have been asking for: a further visit to the Malloren clan. It was good to see many of the family in their married state - again, disappointingly, Fort has a very minor role. Given his animosity to the Mallorens, I've always wanted to know what made him change his mind and tell Elf that he loved her. Ash is a worthy new hero, and Genova just the match for him. Again, however, I wanted to know why Ash changed his mind in the end, something we just didn't get to see. Still, highly recommended!
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