I tend to pick romances up when I am overly stressed or just completely overbooked with things to do. They satisfy me at these sorts of times because I need something that will read quickly for a sense of accomplishment and that will end happily ever after. Their very predictability calls to me at times and that is not a negative, especially if an author can write well within the rather strict confines of the genre. James is one of the best at this.
Third in a series of Regency-set historical romance (the previous entries of which I've not read), this is the story of Gabby Jerningham, the exuberant, clumsy, and incredibly imaginative daughter of a British missionary in England and of Quill Dewland, the heir of Viscount Dewland. Gabby has been sent back to England from India, where she was maligned and belittled by her termagant of a father, to marry Peter Dewland, a man she's never met. Traveling with her is a young, simpleminded Indian boy, heir to the throne near her birthplace. He has been sent with her to England for safekeeping and to keep him out of the clutches of the East India Company. Meanwhile Peter Dewland, the younger son of the current Viscount has been ordered to marry Gabby because his older brother, Quill has had an accident that leaves him unable to participate in any repetitive action (including sex) without suffering a days long, blinding migraine as a result. Peter is very conscious of looks and social approbation and so he is horrified to see the, in his mind, dumpy, unfashionable Gabby, chastizing her at all turns. Quill, however, is captivated by her fresh, unstudied beauty, her charming imagination, and her quick intelligence. And despite her rushed bethrothal to Peter, Gabby falls for Quill, even while not understanding his horror of marriage. The impending death of Viscount Dewland rushes everything here and yet Quill, without explaining his fears to Gabby, marries her in lieu of the rather prissy, fastidious Peter.
How they come to an understanding and a solution for Quill's disability and the political machinations Gabby indulges in regarding her sweet and simple, missing Indian prince take up the second half of the book. There are the requisite misunderstandings as a result of communication failures and shame but the reader is never in any doubt that Quill and Gabby will end up having a comfortable, passionate, long-lived marriage. Quill's illness does seem a bit unbelievable and Gabby's naivete is occasionally over the top but generally, the plot and sub-plots hold together nicely. James' writing is smooth and consistent; her characters always stay in character. Fans of historical romance will definitely appreciate this novel.