Released from their domineering father’s strict expectations by his unexpected death, siblings Valentine and Louisa decide to explore life beyond his rigid boundaries. Heading to London, they are tested by their newfound freedom.
When their father seems to die from an actual fit of apoplexy, Valentine and Louisa are, for the first time in their lives, free to do as they please, which given the tight leash he has maintained on every detail of their existence, is heady indeed. Acquainting themselves to relatives they never knew, they are easily convinced to head into London to get a taste of sophisticated city life. Valentine becomes embroiled in an affair with a married woman who leads him in a merry dance on the edges of propriety, entangling him in murky debts and pushing him into events that could have devastating consequences. Meanwhile, Louisa, who finally has the ability to refuse the man her father expected her to marry, dips her toes into romance and begins to realize that freedom has pros and cons. As circumstances grow complicated and sinister, Valentine and Louisa revisit what matters most and understand the value of having friends they can depend on, even from surprisingly familiar quarters. This book is a witty, intelligent, Regency-set light romance that is reminiscent of such writers as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The language and storyline are clever and highly polished, though almost too much so; often it seems that the distinctly historical tone and cerebral style get in the way of moving the story forward. While the characters are engaging even as they embroil themselves in situations that make the reader want to reach into the book and shake them, they don’t have the compelling qualities for which Austen or Heyer characters are famous, and therefore, the ironic, detached narrative style seems at times annoying and obstructive rather than charming. This entry misses the mark of Morgan’s previous forays into historical romantic fiction.
Many modern romance readers will find the book slow-moving and florid, while others may find the core of the story too lightweight.