Darby Travers, Viscount Nailbourne, spent time in a POW camp in France. While there and recovering from a wound that cost him his eye, he promised John Hamilton, fellow prisoner and the doctor who saved his life, that should anything happen to John, he'd act as guardian to John's daughter Marley. Eighteen months later, Darby is faced with honoring his promise after John succumbs to a lingering stomach wound. When seven year old Marley arrives, she's a bit of a pistol. More worrisome than what to do with the orphaned little miss is what to do with her alluring but antagonistic aunt, Sadie Grace Boxer. Both Darby and Sadie Grace only want what is best for Marley and that clearly includes a guardian and aunt who get along. So not only do they work to become friends who genuinely like each other, but they agree to marry so that society's strictures about unmarried women and bachelors living together will be met. As they enter into this agreement, they still hold secrets about their past (Darby) and the current situation (Sadie Grace) that they cannot yet share with each other.
Darby and Sadie Grace are a sweet couple, learning to open up and trust each other just as they realize they genuinely enjoy each others' company. Although they are the main characters, the secondary characters, who readers will likely already know from previous books in the series, are still wonderfully madcap and warm. With all of the loving couples around them as role models, Darby and Sadie Grace are wrapped in their friend's love and care. The whole book feels a bit like a hug. When one of their friends ends up in a bit of a pickle, they not only help solve the problem but also learn from the situation. Sadie Grace is an interesting character, having assisted and then run her brother's surgery, she is unhappy when she doesn't feel necessary. Michaels has made her an independent woman without making her anachronistic. And it is interesting to see as she learns to interact with servants and why doing things for herself is cause for worry for the staff. Darby is an intuitive, thoughtful man who doesn't push Sadie Grace, allowing her to make decisions in her own time. There aren't massive fireworks in their relationship but a comfort and equality that would bode well for a real life couple. The outside situations where they have to work together to banish a threat are not very extensive and fairly easily handled. Michaels fans will likely enjoy this one but those new to her or to the series should probably start with the first Little Season book (An Improper Arrangement) in order to understand the pranks, inside jokes, and backstory of this goofy set of friends. Those historical romance fans looking for an easy and happy summer read should pick this one up for a satisfying afternoon read.
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.