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What a polite and well-mannered romance! Miss Rose Golightly is accompanying her family to neglected and shabby Hareton Abbey for what is supposed to be a joyous occasion – a wedding. She is knocked all askew when her eyes meet those of Richard, Lord Strang, who is also attending with his twin brother Gervase Kerre. Being in her twenties, and thus considered “on the shelf”, Rose harbors few illusions about her attractiveness to such an eligible gentleman, especially as he is accompanied by his very glamorous young fiancée.
However, events take a tragic turn when an accident upsets the Hareton line of succession and instead of guests at a wedding, Rose’s brother and his wife find themselves the new Earl and Countess of Hareton!! The plot thickens when clues to a deliberate act of violence are uncovered, and Rose discovers that Richard Kerre returns her affections!!! There are mysteries to be solved and passionate puzzles to untangle. Both Rose and Richard are not as free as they would like to be when it comes to pledging their love.
The setting for this novel is interesting from a historical perspective – the mid 1700’s. At this point in time, social behaviors were less flexible than those of the Regency, which was still several decades away. Ms. Connolly does an excellent job of conveying the more rigid environment that existed at that time – and yet shows the underlying need of her characters for true love! Rose is quite practical, but hemmed in by the convention of her time, and Richard, Lord Strang, is also trapped by his circumstances. We very much want to see these two resolve their problems, because together they are an ideal couple.
The secondary characters are well written – their roles are ones of important plot elements, not just figures used for additional dialogue. Rose’s brother James, and his wife Martha, are two very strong characters – I loved Martha’s rapid adjustment to the role of Countess, and her glee when she realized that she could now right the wrongs done to the house that was now hers! I could almost see the gleam of a cleaning frenzy dawn in her eyes!
However, I must admit that the mannerliness and propriety of this novel are costly. I wanted to see Rose rip off Richard’s waistcoat or Richard gallop off across the moors with Rose on his saddle; their love seemed as refined as their behavior and never really jumped off the pages for me. Miss Golightly and Lord Strang probably behaved most appropriately for their time, but for a twentieth century romance reader, a little more passion and less propriety between Rose and Richard would have been welcome.