The Earl of Hawkeswell is in a foul temper. Not only is the brash nobleman inclined to snarl, but this time he has plenty of reasons for it. Nothing has gone according to plan since he decided to wed the wealthy daughter of an industrialist. His bride, now missing for two years, is presumed to be dead. Her remaining family is delaying the inevitable and keeping him from the promised dowry settlement. His entailed properties and the commoners who depend on him are suffering from this lack of funds.
To make matters worse, his closest friend Lord Summerhays, has married. His happiness only reminds Grayson of what he has lost. He never expected a love match, but surely he was not so repugnant as to send his bride off to drown herself in the Thames, was he? All he wanted was a simple arrangement: his name and connections in return for her income and the requisite heir. After two years of legal wrangling and limbo, it is no wonder he is surly.
Everything changes when he accompanies Summerhays to The Rarest Blooms. While waiting on Audrianna to complete her visit with the ladies, one of them draws his attention. There is something about her that seems familiar. Upon a closer look he is shocked to find his wayward bride. She has been here all along!
Verity Thompson knew her charade would not last forever. In fact, she planned to leave her sanctuary now that she was 21 and legally able to seek an annulment from Hawkeswell. Being discovered alive by her bridegroom has thrown her plans in disarray but she will not be swayed. She accepted his proposal under extreme duress and does not want to be his countess. Her late father would not have agreed to this marriage. It was all her cousin Bertram's idea.
Thus begins the second book in The Rarest Blooms series. Author Madeline Hunter has plenty to work with. Hawkeswell is a larger than life nobleman who barks a lot but rarely bites. Verity, who was known as Lizzie in the first book, is no weakling. She was just a girl without options who had no support. Running away was the only solution she had, but now her actions have consequences.
Ms. Hunter must have had a blast writing this novel. It shows in the character development, the humor and the passion. Provocative in Pearls is a treat, and I will be counting the months until the last two stories emerge.