After a very formal and proper courtship, Miss Elizabeth Chavers finds herself coerced by her ambitious mother into marrying Justin St. Clair, the lofty Duke of Charnwood. Itís a marriage of convenience Ė his highly respectable title for her considerable dowry. But hardly have the newly married couple arrived at the Dukeís Bath residence to begin their honeymoon, than they find themselves besieged with the most meddlesome and unwanted guests. Besides a waspish and gambling-addicted cousin Augusta, a cantankerous macaw, the third and most surprising guest turns out to be, to Elizabethís immense shock, Justinís beautiful former wife, Magda!
To the Dukeís, and nobody elseís, great surprise, his hitherto meek bride takes immense offense at this turn of events and things only deteriorate from then on and the wedding night never materializes. Overnight, Justin discovers the biddable girl he married, has a hidden strong nature and a temper to match. This simultaneously delights him, and arouses as well as vexes him. But misunderstandings abound as Justin is too gentle with Elizabeth, afraid of scaring her innocent self with his amorous intentions while she mistakes this caution for disinterest. Tired of being treated as a doll, provoked by her husbandís guests and inattention and a tad bit scared by her growing amorous feelings towards her haughty husband, Elizabeth then takes up with a roughish rake and jealousy runs rampant. Can Justin make his naÔve bride realize the depth of his feelings for her and make theirs a marriage of love, before itís too late?
This jaunty Maggie MacKeever regency romance hits the spot with its ideal mix of hilarity and seriousness. The characters are all very lively and greatly contribute to the story. Justin is very entertaining, the hapless Duke whoís torn between inborn respectability and his growing lustful feelings towards his innocent bride. His attempts to keep an eye on his aggravating guests, friends, and relatives, while simultaneously trying to woo a confused and furious Elizabeth and making a perfect hash of it in the process, makes the readers clutch their sides in delighted laughter.
Through Elizabeth, the readers are introduced to the world of arranged marriages, the consequences, the helplessness, and with what dire expectations the naÔve young misses of that time entered this most adult tradition. This appears hilarious while reading, but also has an underlying seriousness to it. How the two of them make a muddle of things while trying to achieve the same goal, is an amusing lesson in love and relationships. The author has also added a lot of local color by beautifully and authentically bringing to life the city of Bath, its origins, its varied populace, its medicinal waters and the social life therein. While not every issue is wrapped up neat and tight towards the end of the story, this charming Regency tale still is a sure fire winner.