Iris Smythe-Smith, of the notorious family who has no musical talent, but faithfully hosts a musicale every year, is dreading this evening. Unlike most members of her family, she realizes they are truly awful, and only wants the evening to be over. As she attempts to hide behind her cello, she notices a handsome man staring at her all evening. Iris is slight and pale, and normally goes unnoticed, so she’s puzzled by his attention. When the musicale finally ends, she attempts to hurry away, but is stopped by the mysterious man, who insists on being introduced. Sir Richard Kenworthy has come to London with only one purpose – he needs to find a wife, and quickly. Iris seems an ideal candidate to be swept off her feet, and he wastes no time. He calls on her the next day, and begins his courtship. After only a week, he proposes. When Iris hesitates, and tells him she needs more time, Richard purposely kisses her in front of witnesses, so she is compromised, and forced to accept his proposal. In the blink of an eye, they are married, and headed back to his estate in the country.
The first thing I have to note is how skillfully Julia Quinn had me hooked from the beginning in trying to figure out what Richard’s secret was. Iris had a very small dowry, so it wasn’t money. Richard was determined not to consummate their marriage, so it wasn’t the need for an heir. What on earth could it be?
I liked Iris from the get go. While she wasn’t unattractive, or a wallflower, she was still normally overlooked. She, however, did not miss many details, and enjoyed studying people. Iris realizes that there is some secret Richard is keeping from her, something that prompted him to ensure they married quickly. I felt her puzzlement at first, when Richard avoided sexual intimacy with her, and I felt her pain as she decided that he felt no attraction to her at all. Since she is beginning to fall in love with him, this is especially painful.
I felt like I didn’t know Richard that well, as he was a mystery for much of the book. We are only privy to some of his thoughts. He is tormented by how much Iris is going to be hurt when he reveals the truth. He is dying to truly make her his wife, and he is falling in love with her, as well. I couldn’t help but like him, as he was obviously suffering guilt, yet treated Iris with courtesy and kindness.
I found myself reading through this book as quickly as I could, anxious to find out the big secret. When it was revealed, it was indeed a tangled knot of affairs. There is a lot of pain, drama, heartbreak, and tears on the way to resolving the situation. The pacing of the story was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the beginning to the very happy end. Recommended for readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their historical romance, as well as fans of the wonderful Smythe-Smith series.
As originally reviewed by Rose for Smitten By Books