Step into a world of scandal, intrigue, and enthralling passion as New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh sweeps us into the lives of an extraordinary family: the Huxtables. Margaret, the eldest, embarks on the most risqué adventure of her life and agrees to marry the most notorious man in London.... Only desperation could bring Duncan Pennethorne, the infamous Earl of Sheringford, back home after the spectacular scandal that had shocked even the jaded ton. Forced to wed in fifteen days or be cut off without a penny, Duncan chooses the one woman in London in frantic need of a husband. A lie to an old flame forces Margaret Huxtable to accept the irresistible stranger's offer. But
once she discovers who he really is, it's too late--she's already betrothed to
the wickedly sensual rakehell. Quickly she issues an ultimatum: If Duncan wants
her, he must woo her. And as passion slowly ignites, two people marrying for all
the wrong reasons are discovering the joys of seduction--and awaiting the
exquisite pleasure of what comes after....
I think that the Huxtable series is improving with every book that comes out and this third book is now my favourite in the series.
This is the story of Margaret Huxtable, the older sister of the Huxtables, the one that stayed home to take care of her siblings and that by doing that had to refuse an offer of marriage of her childhood friend, Crispin Dew, and despite them having an understanding she later discovered he had married while fighting in Spain.
When the story opens Meg has finally decided that it’s time to marry, her sisters are married and Merton is 23 and well settled as the Earl so they don’t need her anymore. She is decided that the next time the Marquess of Allingham proposes to her, as he has done for 3 times in the last 5 years, she will accept. She is usually a composed and sensible young woman but when faced with Crispin Dew, back from the war and widowed with a small child, she can’t resist showing him that she wasn’t affected by his desertion and she tells him she is engaged to be married but that the relationship is still a secret. Imagine her surprise when at a ball that same night, she finds out that the Marquess of Allingham has in the mean time betrothed himself to someone else so she will be caught out on a lie. But that is when she encounters Duncan Pennethorne, the Earl of Sheringford. Unexpectedly she feels unsettled and tells him about her situation and with Crispin Dew approaching Meg doesn’t resist telling yet another lie and introducing Duncan as her fiancée.
Now Duncan is hardly a spotless hero. Five years before, on the eve of his wedding, he run away with his bride’s sister in law and only just now returned to England, after her death. He has just had his funds cut off by his grandfather and he is in desperate need of a wife. If he can find a bride and marry in the next two weeks his grandfather will restore his allowance. So naturally, after Meg speaks to him he is very eager to pretend he is her fiancé and eventually make it real. Meg’s words soon are the subject of everyone’s gossip and even if she is prepared to admit to her lie and never see Duncan again, he now feels that he has to propose.
Considering his reputation no one in Meg’s family wants her to accept, very much like what happened in the previous book when she prepares to receive him, her whole family advises her against it. Maybe it’s not so surprising that Jasper seems to be the one willing to give Duncan the benefit of the doubt. It is a credit to Mary Balogh’s wonderful storytelling that she can convince us not only that sensible Meg would tell her most important and dear thoughts to a stranger in a crowded ballroom but that she would also consider marrying him despite his black reputation. And that we root for him to succeed!
I think one of the best things about this story is how honest the characters are. When he proposes Duncan tells Meg everything that is done, albeit not why, and why he has to marry in such a rush. Meg is tempted; she can’t help but be attracted to someone who seems so different from all the safe and boring young men she has met before. But since she doesn’t know him she gives him her condition. He will woo her and at the end of the two weeks she will decide if she will marry him or not. Duncan accepts and so they find themselves in each other’s company every day.
I think this was my favourite part of the book. Them getting to know each other, Meg realizing that there’s more than meet the eye about Duncan while being exposed to everyone else’s opinion of him. And Duncan who starts to appreciate Meg for who she is but unwilling to tell her the whole truth and wanting her to accept him with his black reputation. However, he is forced to share some of it and Meg does decide to marry him. The truth about what really happened five years ago eventually comes out and that’s the only thing that I found, well not unreal, but maybe a bit too convoluted to be entirely believable. I find it a bit unbelievable that someone would ruin his reputation and possible happiness, just to help someone that is virtually a stranger. Also the villains were a bit over the top, just there to insult the main characters and nothing more. But I suppose we had to have something really shocking and then there had to be some villains to make Meg’s family rally in support of the newlyweds. Still I’m very happy with it; it reminded me of those early Balogh’s I’m always saying are my favourites.
I can’t say I’m very curious about Merton’s story; he just seems the usual nice young man who will find a bride, marry her and have lots of babies, end of story. However I already know it won’t be like that as Mrs. Balogh decided to pair him up with someone of a different type. I continue very curious about Con’s story and I hope we start having clues soon about what’s going to happen to him.