Though Lady Joan Flynn is from a noble family, she also has a great talent for dress designing, and is quite passionate about it. When she is invited to tea by Lord Valmonte to supposedly discuss her designs with his mother, she doesn’t hesitate to accept. Valmonte, however, has ulterior motives. He plies Joan with excessively strong liqueur, and then takes liberties with her in her befuddled state. When she later awakes to find herself in disarray, and in a clinch with Valmonte, she panics and flees, leaving her designs. Her only thought is to escape to her family in the Scottish Highlands, and she heads for the train station, only to find there is not a seat available.
Mill owner and widower Dante Hartwell is taking his family to the Highlands for a Christmas house party. He had been in town mingling with the noble classes, hoping to secure investors for his mill, or to possibly even find a well connected bride who could improve his station in life. He’s somewhat disheartened because he had little success. At the train station, he sees Joan’s predicament, and his children convince him to let her come along and ride in his private rail car. Joan was one of the people who treated Dante with courtesy and even danced with him. Because Joan has no maid or chaperone, and is only carrying a small bag, Dante knows something is wrong.
During the journey, in the enforced intimacy of the rail car, Joan finds herself confessing to Dante what happened. She doesn’t actually remember if Valmonte took full advantage of her, but it doesn’t matter, because her reputation will be ruined. And if he did take advantage, there is the possibility of a child. Joan needs a husband, and quickly. Dante is willing to marry her, accepting that she may be carrying another man’s child. She can bring him the connections he needs, as well as being a mother for his children, and he can save her reputation. They tentatively agree to marry, and proceed to become better acquainted. Dante suggests a kiss –
“I’ve changed my mind. My plan was to kiss you witless, and while that plan has appeal, I’m thinking you ought to be the one doing the kissing.” She kissed that mouth, their lips coming together in a pair of smiles that boded well for their future. Putting responsibility for prosecuting the kiss in her hands had been generous on his part, giving Joan the latitude to linger on new sensations. “Taste me, Joan. I’m dying for you to taste me.”
What a perfectly wonderful couple Joan and Dante make! Despite the dire circumstances Joan is in, she remains honest, and never tries to deny what may have happened. She tells Dante everything, without sugarcoating it. Though of much higher birth, she never looks down on Dante, but treats him with respect and affection. Dante, while a commoner, and a little rough around the edges, is a hero to die for. He’s willing to accept Joan, despite what happened, and will happily raise her child (if there should be one) as his own. He doesn’t think less of Joan, but champions her. When the sleazy Valmonte comes back into their lives, intent on blackmail, Dante steps up to show how much of a hero he is.
While the story takes place over a short amount of time, the Christmas holidays, Joan and Dante’s love unfolds believably and most satisfyingly. As with all of Grace Burrowes’ novels, there is wonderful dialogue, warmth, and even some laugh out loud humor from some amorous pet bunnies. Reading this story was like savoring a scrumptious Christmas dessert, and I recommend it most highly.
As reviewed by Rose for Smitten by Books