Well beyond the normal age of courtship and marriage, a young woman resigns herself to a quiet life on her parents's estate. Then the adopted son of the Duke of Derwent arrived. His kind manner and passionate glances brought new, unfamiliar joy to the lady's heart. But the dashing gentleman had too many duties to his father to properly court her. It will take a scandalous heartbreak to bring them both together in a love that will go against their families and society. . .
Seth Lindow is the adopted son of the Duke of Derwent, he has always felt indebted to the Duke for adopting him so her works as his man of affairs. The Duke has an heir, a rake of the lowest sort who has assignations with maids, beats his servants and drinks too much. To control his wild ways the Duke asks Seth to find a bride, someone pretty and biddable who will put up with his bad temper. Seth thinks he may have found the right one when he meets Zoe Beckett, the youngest daughter of an impoverished Baronet. To better know her he decides to visit her home under pretext of buying some horses.
Seth gets to know Zoe better but also her oldest sister Eden. Eden seems the most sensible person in the family, she likes to paint and secretly plans to live alone and support herself selling her paintings. While he feels more disappointed with Zoe as he gets to know her better he feels more attracted to Eden as the time passes.
On his return to London he invites the family to a dinner party at the duke's house. There Zoe meets the Marquess of Bellhaven, the Duke's heir and unexpectedly they seem much taken with each other. And as Seth finds himself falling in love with Eden the Duke decides she is the perfect choice for Belhaven's bride leaving him thorn between his loyalty to his father and his love for Eden.
There were plenty of things to like in this story. First that we have an original hero, someone that is not a titled gentleman and who actually works, then that Eden is a dedicated painter who takes her art seriously, and then that the more they know each other the better they deal with each other, Seth helps Eden gain confidence and she makes him realise that he should live his life and not do everything the duke wants. Now, what I didn't like, I know Eden was more modern than most with her dream of living alone but each time Seth kissed her she just seemed to take it in stride, like it was "all normal, we just got carried away, let's not think about it anymore", I thought that was a bit odd but just a little detail.
There are some problems to deal with before they get their HEA, namely Bellhaven and Zoe. Barbour did find an unexpected explanation for Bellhaven's behaviour and while I wasn't very convinced I have to give her points for originality.