Daniel Smythe-Smith, the Earl of Winstead, had to flee England three years ago after he tripped and shot his friend in a duel. He spent three years looking over his shoulder since Hugh's father vowed to hunt him down and kill him. But Hugh himself finds Daniel and convinces him that he has extracted a promise from his father to quit hunting Daniel. And so Daniel comes home. He comes home the night of the annual Smythe-Smith musicale when the unmarried girls in the family showcase their lack of musical talent by performing perfectly dreadfully. The cousin slated to butcher the piano accompaniment fakes an illness and her younger sisters' governess, Anne Wynter, is roped in as a stand-in. From behind a cracked door, Daniel spies Anne laboring away at the piano and he is immediately struck by her.
Daniel pursues her by spending time with his young, highly entertaining cousins whenever they are in their governess' care. Anne tries to hold herself away from him and deny the growing attraction between them because she is desperate to maintain her position and to chart her own course in life, no matter how lonely that course is destined to be thanks to a youthful indiscretion. But when Daniel's and Anne's lives are in danger, she might just have to let him in on the secret of her past.
The banter between Anne and Daniel is delightful and they definitely have a sweet sexual tension as well. The hilarious and lively secondary characters often overshadow them when they appear in scenes though. The plot romps along and is strongest when Daniel's family (those strong secondary characters) is a part of the narrative. Once Anne and Daniel have to figure out who wants to hurt them (and which one of them is the target), the plot weakens and relies on some tired plot devices like a kidnapping. On the plus side, Anne is not a hand wringing sort of heroine and she is a deeply caring character. She is determined and takes charge of herself. Both Anne and Daniel have had to make amends for terrible misjudgments in their respective youths but they've come out of it as appealing characters who deserve each other and happiness. This is a pleasant, well-written tale that fulfills the historical Regency-set romance reader's expectations.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.