Lavinia Ellison cares immensely about the poor in her father’s parish. When Nicholas Stamford, the new Earl of Hawkesbury, arrives in the village, she considers it her duty to inform him about the inadequate state of tenant housing. Although he does not share her passion for charitable causes, Lavinia seems to catch the earl’s attention in other ways. But the earl has a past with Lavinia’s family that she is not willing to forget or forgive….
Nicholas Stamford has never been able to overcome his guilt at the injury his family did to the vicar. The vicar’s daughter, Miss Ellison, certainly does not approve of him despite his title and fortune. But when events conspire to throw the two together, the earl begins to find that his affection for the lady is leading to an affection for his ill-used tenants as well. Now, if he can only shield Miss Ellison from the scandals that threaten to engulf her, all will be well.
As the book description hints, this book is filled with overtones of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Although it is by no means a simple retelling of that story, there are elements of presumptuous arrogance and preconceived bias that both protagonists must overcome. Lord Hawkesbury begins the story as a somewhat self-absorbed individual, and it is only through his sparring with Miss Ellison that his character grows in kindness and charity. Lavinia, on the other hand, is stringently self-righteous in her pursuits, and requires interactions with the earl to develop a softness and gentleness to her crusading spirit.
I first met these characters in Carolyn Miller’s second trilogy (Winning Miss Winthrop, Miss Serena’s Secret, and The Making of Mrs. Hale), and was delighted to go backwards to learn how Lavinia and Hawkesbury first meet. The story was engaging although it did feel a little too circuitous at the end. Another enjoyable Regency romance from Carolyn Miller!