Geoffrey Wentworth, a war hero and rising political star, never wanted to be the Earl, but when his brother dies, he knows his duty—take up the responsibility for his family’s estates. His mother’s definition of duty differs from his, however, and can be summed up in one word—heirs. When Geoffrey rushes home to answer her urgent summons, he finds himself host to a house full of women, all vying to become the next Countess of Stratford. But his love is Parliament, where he wields his influence and reputation to better the lives of ex-soldiers, until a tempting houseguest and a secret from his past threaten his freedom…and his heart.
Liliana Claremont, a brilliant chemist, doesn’t want to be any man’s wife, much less a Countess. If she had tuppence for every time she’d been told her place was filling the nursery, not experimenting in the laboratory, she could buy the Tower Bridge. However, when she receives a coveted invitation to the Earl’s house party, she trades in her beakers for ball gowns and gladly takes on the guise of husband hunter—for the chance to uncover what the Earl had to do with the murder of her father.
Liliana believes the best way to get the answers she needs is to keep her enemy close, though romance is not part of her formula. But it only takes one kiss to start a reaction she can’t control…
I wanted to read this book because it features a scientist for a heroine. I’m all about heroines who don’t fit the historical mold, and I definitely got that with Liliana.
Liliana has finagled a way into Somerton Park, the country estate of the Earl of Stratford. She recently discovered some papers in her father’s library that lead her to believe the current earl’s father had something to do with her father’s death. She will search for evidence of this while at Somerton. Meanwhile, the Earl is hosting a two week party that he wants no part of. His manipulative mother coerced him into staying at Somerton and demands he find a bride. Geoffrey has plans to find a bride – eventually. And there’s nothing his mother can do or say to change his mind.
When Geoffrey catches Liliana one night in his library, can you blame him for believing she’s looking for a husband? Even when she denies it, he doesn’t quite believe her, why else would she be at the party? From this meeting, things take a fun turn. Geoffrey decides to use Liliana’s claims that she’s not looking for a husband in his favor. He’s going to make her his partner in all the games his mother has set up and he’s going to accompany her to the meals. Indeed, if she isn’t looking for a husband, she’s the perfect woman for him. But after one game, when Liliana acts totally uninterested in his feats of strength, he’s annoyed with her lack of interest! I thought this part of the book was lots of fun. Liliana realizes she’s taken things too far and decides to be more amenable, but Geoffrey’s back is up and he wants her interest.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I did have a complaint. Liliana is there under false pretenses – so you know she’s obviously going to be found out right? I thought this part of the plot was a little bit predictable but even when Geoffrey did react the way I thought, I was quite torn up about it! I almost cried, which surprised the heck out of me. I didn’t realize how engaged I was with these two characters.
Liliana is a bit naive, with her focus all her life on medicinal science and healing, she’s always shunned society and prefers her little cottage where she has the freedom to work on her experiments and collect her samples. And that is what appeals to Geoffrey. When he realizes that he really wants her, he looks at her analytically as a future countess. She doesn’t have the sophistication to be a politician’s wife and that’s what he thinks he needs. But Liliana brings out a side of him that he’s never shown anyone before and even when he thinks she’s betrayed him, he can’t deny how he feels.
I thought the mystery involving her father, and eventually Geoffrey’s, was well done. It did not take over the romance at all. In fact, while Liliana is getting to know Geoffrey, the search for evidence is pretty much pushed into the background, which is where I like it. It did come into focus in the last third of the story, but that made sense to the plot.
All in all, this was a good debut and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a non-traditional heroine.
3.75 out of 5.