When Lady Xenobia is hired to restyle Thorn Dautry’s country estate to help him win a perfect bride, they're both loath to admit they’ve met their perfect matches.
The illegitimate yet beloved son of the Duke of Villiers, Thorn has made his own successful way in the world through his cleverness and entrepreneurial spirit. Rich beyond imagining, he's now turning his energy toward finding a wife. He has his eyes on Laetitia Rainsford, a quiet beauty with a harridan for a mother. The Rainsfords are short on cash, and Laetitia’s father is holding out for a huge dowry, despite Lady Rainsford’s disdain for the illegitimate, untitled Dautry. Thorn buys a country estate previously owned by a debauched lord, and he must completely refurbish the buildings and land before inviting his family and the Rainsfords to a house party that he hopes will end in an engagement. On the advice of his stepmother, Thorn hires Lady Xenobia—known to her friends as India—to manage the overwhelming project, and she executes every detail with grace and elegance. India is the daughter of a marquess, and Thorn knows she is above his reach, so he at first tries to ignore their flaming attraction, then gives in to it but clings to the idea of biddable, easygoing Laetitia as an appropriate bride. India and Thorn each have deep-seated insecurities and strong personalities, and their secretive courtship is intense and explosive. They are clearly perfect for each other but blinded by their own uncertainty and society’s expectations. Star romance author James revisits her best-selling Desperate Duchesses series with this compelling and passionate book. India and Thorn (aka Tobias, first met in This Duchess of Mine (2009) as a youth) are complex, intriguing and endearing, and their romance enchants. Secondary characters enhance the emotional stakes, and fans will enjoy another peek at popular hero Villiers and his wife, Eleanor.
Emotionally rewarding and elegantly written, with textured characters and a captivating plot, this is James at her best.