HE THOUGHT HE'D SEEN IT ALL . . .
The rogue's life has been good to William Somerhall: He has his fortune, his racehorses, and his freedom. Then he moves in with his mother. It seems the eccentric Dowager Duchess of Worth has been barely skirting social disaster-assisted by one Miss Jenna Hughes, who is far too bright and beautiful to be wasting her youth as a paid companion. Now home to keep his mother from ruin, William intends to learn what's afoot by keeping his friends close-and the tempting Miss Hughes closer still.
. . . UNTIL HE MEETS HER
He's tall, dark, and damnably intelligent-unfortunately for Jenna. She and the duchess are in the "redistribution business," taking from the rich and giving to the poor, and it's going great - until he shows up. But even as William plots to make an honest woman out of her, Jenna will use all her wiles to reveal just how bad a rogue he can be . . .
Bowen's impish sense of humor is expressed by lively, entertaining characters in this wickedly witty Regency. Eleanor, Dowager Duchess of Worth, and her comely young companion, Jenna Hughes, are left to their own devices by the duchess's son, William. They concoct a delightful, devious, and quite illegal scheme to tip the scales of social justice by swindling money from the overstuffed pockets of the wealthy and using it to pay off the nobles' accounts with hardworking merchants. Their clever conspiracy is humming along quite nicely until William decides to put his philandering ways on temporary hold and pay attention to what the women are up to. Jenna makes a last-ditch effort to throw him off the scent via a hasty seduction; she succeeds, but William soon redoubles his efforts to uncover her secret. This is pure romantic fun in the con-game comedy vein.
A fun, surprisingly deep and wholly enjoyable story.
A deceptively titled story leads readers to expect a light and fluffy read, when what is truly between these pages is surprisingly laden with depth and social awareness, a Robin Hood like story of supporting the downtrodden despite the titled positions of the protagonists. William is the Duke of Worth, and completely involved in following his own desires. Racehorses, wealth and a title keep him busy, with few concerns of society’s censure, but whispers of his mother’s increasing eccentricities are causing him worry.
Jenna is the companion to the Dowager Duchess, Eleanor, and her dedication to Eleanor and their ‘business’ is complete. Eleanor’s life when her husband was alive was typical of the day: few options or rights, and she carefully cultivated the impression of a dutiful wife, slightly empty-headed, and pleasant, without ambitions. But years ago Eleanor started to cultivate a network of people willing to help her, and with Jenna, their plans are moving ahead full steam.
With Will’s appearance in residence in the dower house, and his determination to rein in his mother and her spending, the story moves from lighthearted banter and small subterfuge, as the wealth-redistribution plans of his mother and her companion come clear. Despite his shock at the unusual philanthropy, what bothers Will more is the fact of Jenna, and his inability to not be attracted to her.
Slowly their attraction builds and is displayed with their interactions: banter, humor and the realization that they are meant for one another. While the story starts as a lighthearted romp, as the lack of recompense the merchants and commoners have when they are refused payment from the titled classes that have used their services. The social conventions, inequities, and lack of balance in society is made clearer to Will, and he soon understands his mother’s mission, and admires Jenna’s determination and ability to ‘manage’ her wishes. A fun, surprisingly deep and wholly enjoyable story.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book