Brook Eden grew up in Monaco as a princess in a palace, all the world thinking she was the illegitimate granddaughter of Prince Albert. But when her actress mother dies she reveals the truth–she had rescued Brook as an infant from an overturned carriage in England and raised her as her own.
The heir to the Stafford dukedom, Justin Windon spends part of his time in Monaco with his father and part in England with his grandfather. He has grown up with Brook, teaching her to ride and shoot, and thinking of her as his little sister. He undertakes a mission to discover who Brook’s real mother was and finds that her father, Lord Whitby, is still alive–and indeed, has been searching for his lost daughter for nearly eighteen years. Falling in love with his lifelong friend, Justin escorts Brook to England, determined to stay by her side until her long lost family accepts her as one of them and then declare his true feelings for her.
But, naturally, things don’t go as planned. His grandfather’s death comes fast on the heels of his father’s demise, and Justin becomes the new Duke of Stafford. With an encumbered estate, he is determined the world will not see him as a fortune hunter in search of Brook’s inheritance. He pushes her away, resolving to set his family finances to rights before he offers her his heart.
In Justin’s absence, however, Brook is assaulted by strange nightmares, a ruffian with a knife, and a strange secret involving lost jewels. Not all of her cousins are as kind as they pretend to be, and when the unthinkable happens, Justin finds that his delay may have cost them both everything.
This charming love story is set in the Edwardian era amid Rolls Royces, debutante balls, and an upstairs-downstairs divide of aristocrats and hired help. Much of the story centers around misunderstandings, and both the characters’ and the reader’s frustration mounts as a continued lack of communication keeps Justin and Brook apart. Despite their inability to converse about the things that really matter, they are both likable characters with strong personalities and a determination to do right.
A host of memorable secondary characters line the stage, with an interesting subplot regarding Brook’s maid Deirdre and a charming foil for Justin in the person of Brice, Lord Worthing. Usually I like a mystery in my romance to keep things interesting, but I found the romance portion of this book far more compelling than the mystery and actually wished to explore more of the characters’ personalities than find out about the lost jewels.
This book is the first of a series, and I will definitely be on the lookout for the next one.
“Yes, you see, we take part in this bizarre social ritual called conversation. You should give it a try sometime. It’s when you exchange words–at a normal volume–for the purpose of sharing information, rather than for accusation of inflicting emotional pain.”