There was no reason for a lord as handsome and high and mighty as the Duke of Bridgewater even to glance at a humble vicar's daughter like Miss Stephanie Gray. No reason except the Duke was in need of amorous amusement, and the he was mistakenly convinced that Stephanie was precisely the kind of woman that she was decidedly not.
It was one thing for Stephanie to be grateful to the Duke for rescuing her from a horrific highway mishap. It was quite another, however, to repay him by accepting what she long had been told was a fate worse than death. So when the Duke stooped to conquer, Stephanie rose to defend her virtue - only to find that even the most proper young lady on the brink of the deepest of dangers could nonetheless fall in love . . .
The Plumed Bonnet is part of a series that starts with Dark Angel. I have read the previous books some time ago and I never wrote the reviews but reading this one actually made me want to go back and revisit those soon.
In the beginning of this story we find Stephanie Gray walking along the road in a very colourful hat and destitute. When the Duke of Bridgewater's carriage comes along he sees a lady of easy virtue who might help him pass a few comfortable hours and he offers her a ride. Stephanie is naturally grateful and tells him the story of how she ended up like that and who she is. The story sounds so fantastic that Bridgewater believes it to be made up just to gain his interest. Amused he plays along and they both spend a night in an Inn albeit in separate rooms. When Bridgewater realises she was telling the truth he feels duty bound to offer for her because he knows he has compromised her.
Stephanie accepts as she feels she has no option (she has to marry to receive her inheritance) and she does admire the Duke very much for what she feels was a good deed towards her. But the easy communication between the two is now at an end. Stephanie feels like a country bumpkin next to Bridgewater's family and despite being coached in her new duties by the dowager Duchess she feels she may never be sophisticated enough to fulfill her new duties, and Bridgewater realises he wants a true marriage between them but seems unable to express his feelings in a way she understands them.
On their wedding day he decides to be truthful and tell her what he really thought about her when they met. This makes Stephanie realise that he also has flaws; the man she thought had been so kind to her simply thought she was a trollop. While this causes her some pain it was also a much needed conversation to clear the air between them. After the initial big misunderstanding (which I usually don't like) that was quite funny and then the smaller ones that contributed to make this a very angsty read during their engagement. Bridgewater and Stephanie will have to build their relationship on who they really are.
I found this a lovely, entertaining story with very funny moments in the first half and then some poignant ones in the second. It covers the dangers to women alone on the road, the insecurity of meeting one's in laws and how difficult it is sometimes to understand others, be it words or looks, when you don't actually know them. Another winner!