by Mary Balogh

June 2004
ISBN: 0-385-33811-2
Reviewer Graphic Button Delacorte Press

The most eagerly-awaited finale to the Bedwyn family series has arrived at long last! The intriguing, exasperating, most arrogant Duke of Bewcastle finally meets his match! The cool, self-composed and utterly controlling Wulfric Bedwyn has done something completely out of character. He has accepted an invitation to attend a country house party, where he will be forced to socialize with the other guests for endless days of parochial amusements and banal chatter. What was he thinking?

Christine Derrick has already refused an invitation to attend her friend Melanie’s party. Her foray into society left her a widow and she has no desire to enter the ton’s spotlight again. A schoolmaster’s daughter who had married well, Christine is content to live at Hyacinth Cottage and help out in the village school. She is not really suited for the rarified air of balls and soirees. She prefers the simple pleasures found in frolicking with her nieces and nephews in the surrounding countryside. In addition, she wants to avoid the censure that has colored her relationship with her former in-laws and caused her a great deal of pain.

As fans of the gifted Mary Balogh’s books can tell you, Christine and Wulf are destined to meet - probably under the most appalling of circumstances! And when they do, the sparks fly! This is not just a mere case of opposites attracting, it is a romp through the gardens and stately homes of Britain’s finest families. Don’t assume, however, that humor is all that you will find between the pages.

Wulfric assumed the mantle of family responsibility at a very young age, putting aside his own dreams and subjugating his personality into a confining mold. He has been the duke for half of his thirty-five years, and his personal wishes have been lost in the power he carries on his broad shoulders. The fawning ton have added to his ego until he is drowning in his own consequence. But be sure you look behind the mask to see the man. Even his family have forgotten the boy he once was. They adore him, but he is too remote, untouched - or so it seems.

Christine, on the other hand, is exactly what she seems to be, a free-spirited woman who loves life. She embraces each day and wrings every scrap of joy out of it. Her high spirits are quite unbecoming and inappropriate, but her sunny nature allows easy forgiveness and fond amusement. She has her own somber moments, when she remembers the last few years of her marriage, but she cannot dwell on them. Life is too short. Her encounters with the haughty duke are a mirror of her nature, flashed back at her in his silvery, icy eyes. He is not only handsome and powerful, but gives the impressing of being a Slightly Dangerous man to cross.

Tears of laughter and heart-wrenching empathy await you in this stunning book. Wulfric and Christine have a rocky path in front of them, and the cautious lovers take their time with it. Be prepared to laugh out loud as you read scenes that are so hilarious you cannot imagine any other outcome, and be prepared to weep as these two souls struggle and strain to find common ground. Welcome back the ever-growing Bedwyn clan as the two years that have passed since Slightly Sinful, have filled their homes with children. Mary Balogh shows us once again why so many people think she is the mistress of the Regency romance! I wish I had a dozen roses to give to this book!

Reviewed in May 2004 by Paula.

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