By: Marcia, guest reviewer
Grace Eversleigh has a problem. She is in love with a highwayman and a Duke. Neither is marriage material since socially the highwayman with beneath her and the Duke is well above her. The fact that they are both the same man does not help her situation at all.
Grace is a woman from a good but undistinguished family who was thrown out her home after her parent's death. Her only possessions are her self-respect and good name. Never one to miss a good opportunity, the dowager Duchess of Wyndham hired Grace as a companion. Late one night while returning home from a local dance in the dowager's elegant coach, she and Grace are held at gunpoint and robbed by a masked but charming highwayman. The dowager insists that she knows his voice and is convinced that he is her grandson. She gives him the ring off her finger as proof. The next morning the Dowager, accompanied by several servants, kidnap the highwayman for the purpose of returning the dukedom to him. Never mind that there is a current Duke of Wyndham who has been fulfilling these duties well for many years.
The ring is familiar to Jack Audley. He has one just like it left to him by his father who drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland. His mother survived the same shipwreck, but only lived long enough to give birth to him. Having been raised with love and laughter by his maternal aunt and uncle, Jack was told only that his father was from a good English family.
The underlying theme of this book is about being worthy...worthy of position and love. For some readers today, this may seem a little farfetched. After all, today we believe that an individual should go after what they want. But in England, during the early 19th century, this was not the case. Duty to one's family and county were foremost, as well as, knowing one's place. This social structure was supported by the prevailing religious belief that God did not intend for man to be happy. It will take tremendous courage for Jack and Grace to take a chance on their personal happiness.
Julia Quinn's first novel about the Cavendish family is a winner, told with humor and wit. This is a 'feel good' novel where all the characters, including the dowager, are sympathetic and their motivations are clear. The story moves along smoothly with a tightly constructed plot. It is a great book to read in summer on a sunny beach or wrapped in a blanket on a cold winter's day.