Merry and her aunt and uncle have come to London for the season. Behind her, in Boston, she leaves two broken engagements and she knows she cannot afford a third jilted fiance to her name, despite her sizable inheritance. She accepts the proposal of Lord Cedric Allardyce, the good looking, fashionable younger brother of a duke. But at the very ball where she accepts Cedric's suit, she meets and is attracted by a brooding and powerful man she meets out on the balcony. This unnamed man is equally enchanted by Merry and her American forthrightness and instantly determines to marry her. Each of them are horrified to discover the other's identity. He is the Duke of Trent, Cedric's older twin and she, of course, is Cedric's newly minted fiance. Although it is quickly clear that Merry and Cedric are mismatched in every way, they are yoked together (and in fact, Cedric could really use her fortune). That Cedric and Trent have spent their whole lives competing makes the situation that much more untenable. As the older brother, Trent received the dukedom but Cedric was the twin loved by their mother. Both Allardyces lost out on something they dearly desired. Now Cedric possesses Merry, the woman his brother wants, and Merry cannot allow herself to contemplate jilting a third fiance.
Merry is a fun heroine. She knows she is a bit of an awkward American, ignorant of English society ways but she's only willing to change so far. She has her own value system and being in England is not going to turn her into a less democratic person. Her habit of dropping little snippets of knowledge into the conversation when she's nervous or filling a silence is endearing. That she is trapped in an increasingly terrible situation because of her full speed ahead personality and her naivete serves to make her just that much more sympathetic to readers. Cedric is a spoiled baddie of a character but he's not as entirely awful and unredeemed as he might be, though the reader, like Merry, certainly prefers the solid and kind Duke of Trent. The chemistry between Merry and Trent is pretty steamy and satisfying indeed, and the story line centered on learning to recognize and cherish real love over the superficial is well done. All in all, this was a charming and entertaining read, just as I've come to expect from James.