A bluestocking who avoids society faces her fears during a long house party with the help of a suave and accomplished beau.
Flora Jennings has good reason to steer clear of the haut ton. Her mother was born into that world but left it to marry Flora’s scholarly father. Flora has been raised with her mother’s stories about how her old friends rejected her. That’s why Flora reacts with suspicion when Lord Robert Gresham, the fourth son of a duke, shows interest in her work translating cuneiform tablets. But after Robert spends months trying to adapt to her world of scholarship and intellectual discourse, Flora decides to see if she can adapt to his world of fancy dress balls and soirees. The two meet again at a house party on a remote country estate. Robert is determined to convince Flora to marry him. Flora is unsure of his feelings and her own, especially when manners dictate that Robert avoid paying her too much attention. In spite of Flora’s uncertainty, their romance is proceeding well, until trauma from Flora’s past threatens to overwhelm her. Robert wants to rescue Flora but has to learn to step back and let her take the lead on her own rescue. The novel is the fourth in Ashford’s (Lord Sebastian’s Secret, 2017, etc.) series The Duke’s Sons. The characters are well-drawn even if the gender-equality angle is a little anachronistic. The story, too, is absorbing and well-paced. But it doesn’t read very well as a stand-alone novel. The flashbacks are confusing, and there are too many assumptions made about what the reader knows. A lot can be forgiven, however, when the writing is this fine.
A fun book, well worth reading, even if the plot is occasionally confusing.