An aristocratic sea captain discovers he’s the heir to a duke and agrees to help a ruined lady find a former sailor from his ship if she’ll pretend to be his betrothed as he enters society.
After months at sea, Capt. Griffith Davies meets the remarkable Lady Della Howlett, a duke’s daughter, but before she can explain why she’s looking for him, he’s arrested by the Royal Naval Police. He’s released because—and simultaneously discovers that—he’s the heir to the Duke of Northam, who he's surprised to find out is his cousin Frederick ("many people had to have died in the interim," he realizes), who is unwell. Griffith ran away to sea to escape his amoral, privileged family, but he’s always loved Frederick and is willing to honor the title for him and to possibly make a positive impact on the direction of his country. Della tracks him down again, asking him to help her find her best friend’s husband, a black man who was previously a sailor on his ship. He agrees, but only if she’ll play the part of his betrothed: "I have faced battleships, fearsome storms, and the most voracious boll weevils while at sea. None of them terrify me as much as the thought of all those unmarried Society ladies discovering there is an eligible duke’s heir in their midst….I want you to be my guide and to let these women believe I am already spoken for.” Della explains she is ruined, with an illegitimate daughter, but Griffith, seeing something of a kindred spirit in the headstrong woman, still demands the bargain. Frampton unspools a satisfying love story between two iconoclastic characters who would have a much easier time if they weren’t, well, themselves. So of course they’ll find happily-ever-after with each other. A diverse, enlightened cast makes for satisfying storytelling, and characters who both do the right thing and find people who love them for it is a welcome message these days.
A merry, modern historical romance.