A Regency-set historical romance, with wonderful emotion, adventure, and humour.
When Eleanor Tennant was called to look after her niece Belinda, she swore she’d help her find the perfect suitor. Unfortunately, Belinda prefers the attentions of Geoffrey Barkwith, a handsome, notorious rake with an unsavoury reputation. In a letter to an advice columnist for The Ladies’ Fashionable Cabinet, Belinda asks the woman – should she go after her heart’s desire? Her response is yes!
Eleanor, furious with this advice, goes in search of the mysterious Busybody. She finds out that the wretched woman giving such public encouragement is not a woman at all, but a man!
Can a realist and a romantic fall in love? This is the central question in Hern's (The Bride Sale; etc.) atypical and often frustrating early 19th-century romance. Cynical widow Eleanor Tennant doesn't believe in love, so when her niece, Belinda, falls for a reformed rake, Eleanor urges her to choose someone with more wealth and status. Instead, Belinda follows the advice of the Busybody, a columnist for the Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet, and remains steadfast in her devotion. Enraged, Eleanor tracks down the Busybody, only to find that the "sentimental old biddy" is Simon Westover, a bookish romantic who will do anything to keep his identity concealed. In return for Eleanor's silence, Simon agrees to set things right by her niece, but their arrangement becomes far more complicated when they learn that Belinda has run away to elope. Determined to rescue Belinda, Eleanor blackmails Simon into helping her track down the couple. A strong physical attraction develops between Eleanor and Simon, despite her venomous attitude and appalling behavior (she smacks him twice and betrays his trust). By the end, readers will root for the adorable beta male to leave rather than love Eleanor. Though Hern has a firm understanding of the period, her narrow-minded heroine is unlikely to earn the reader's favor or empathy.