This lovely little book was a quick and delightful read. I was sad to finish it because it meant that I would have to let the leads Julian Ravenwood and Sophy Dorring go their own way. The novel starts out with Julian accepting Sophy’s refusal to marry him. The word was passed down to him through her grandfather and Julian is stunned. Little Sophy could not hope to make a better match and his offer was generous to the extreme. Determined to gain an audience with Sophy Julian contrives of a way to do so. He tracks her down and demands to know her requirements to marry him. She spouts of a few outrageous ideas and he agrees and adds a few of his own turning the tables and leaving Sophy stunned.
Julian is an earl and all that implies. He’s the epitome of the controlling domineering alpha male. He’s also a widower; his late wife drowned. Not that this was a hardship, there was something wrong with the woman. Elizabeth, the dead wife, was for the lack of a better word a nymphomaniac. She loved to cuckold Julian, especially since she didn’t want to marry him in the first place. She took what was warm and good inside Julian and killed it. After the second duel to defend her honor, Julian came to the realization that his wife was not virtuous and didn’t have any honor. He labeled all women susceptible to the madness and vowed never to risk his fool neck for a woman again, but he needs a wife to supply him an heir and Sophy as far as he’s concerned is as different from Elizabeth as night and day.
Sophy is a typical unusual female for her times, but in slightly new way. She’s not put together and far from sophisticated. Pieces of her clothing and accessories like ribbons and feathers are always askew. She loves to read (mostly herbals and a treatise on women’s rights). She doesn’t trust seduction or lust without love. The reason Sophy doesn’t trust a man’s passion is because her sister, Amelia, was seduced and killed by one man’s passion. Sophy thinks sex without love is the epitome of masculine ruthlessness. She has the ring of the man who seduced Amelia and plans to find him and ruin him.
When Julian corner’s her for her list of demands she begs of him three things. One, that she not be forced into the childbed right away or more accurately forced into the marriage bed. Julian promises her three months of leeway. This is acceptable to her because she’s loved Julian since she was 18 not that the fool would notice, panting after Elizabeth as he was. She hopes to make him love her in the time they are not sharing a bed. Two, she wants to control her inheritance. Julian counters that his quarterly allowance for her exceeds the money her grandfather will leave her, but she insists. Three, she wants no interference from him on what she can and cannot read.
Sophy was quite loveable as a character I thought; Julian on the other hand at times was not. While his motives are quite known he still comes off as stern, intractable, and unwilling to reach compromises not in his favor… he breaks his side of the bargain while Sophy always keeps hers and dares to get mad when Sophy questions his honor. Depending on the reader you might be tempted to throw the book because of his outlandish behavior. Also true, however, is that you might enjoy his high handedness. In addition Julian is protective and concerned for his new wife. By the end I was persuaded to like him, but he was definitely ridiculous at times. Perhaps that makes him flawed realistically. Grin.