A well-born but penniless orphan is compromised by a wealthy gentleman and comes to realize that all the luxuries in the world aren’t enough reason to enter into a loveless marriage. Her plans to escape are foiled, though, when she begins to question her feelings—and his.
Livia Stuart has endured years of neglect from her guardians and derision from her neighbors— especially the spoiled, unkind Cecily Orr—which she has tried to rise above. When rich, handsome Gabriel Penhallow arrives to court Cecily at his pompous grandmother’s behest, he winds up kissing Livia at the ball where everyone’s expecting him to make an offer of marriage for Cecily. Of course, they are discovered; after Gabriel stiffly does his duty and says he'll marry Livia, it isn't long before he finds himself confused by his strangely ambivalent feelings toward the matter: “Green eyes blazed up at him, and he had to remind himself that blue eyes were better than green, and it was a foolish, regrettable kiss that had stolen from him his safe and predictable future. If she hadn’t been so tempting, everything would be perfect right now.” From that moment on, Gabriel is determined to maintain the legendary Penhallow control while Livia struggles with the idea of marrying the arrogant Gabriel. She wants to be loved and accepted, though she’d die before she’d admit it to him, or even herself. As they dance back and forth, aware of their blazing attraction but hiding behind their masks of manners and pride, they meet—and create—obstacle after obstacle to finding true affinity. Author Berne offers a masterful Regency debut that explores pride and prejudices with a tone that seems much less modern than that of many recent historical releases and two main characters who epitomize traditional Regency sensibilities (but for two love scenes) as they sort through what they want and how to get it. Livia becomes the sun shining in on a stuffy, wounded family whose initial dread at the thought of her joining them transforms into happiness as she turns out to be their salvation.
A sheer delight.