This novel comes before the previous one I read in the overall timeline and involves the meddling of the three longtime friends who later become the lady travelers to a much lesser degree. Still, it holds true to the strong characterization, well-written dialogue, and mix of amusing and heartfelt encounters that drew me into the other novel.
The death of Uncle Richard, a man both James and Violet, the woman he married in haste, respected and loved, beings this story. Or rather, it begins with the reading of Uncle Richard’s will and its strict conditions that attempt what he has been unable to for the past few years. Namely, getting his nephew and Violet to recognize the mistake they’ve made by keeping apart.
Just as they respected and loved him, Uncle Richard returned the affection. He helped both achieve their potential as they matured, Violet by exploring the world and James by giving up his wild youth in favor of maintaining the title and properties he would someday inherit. The three elderly friends become involved when one receives a letter in which Uncle Richard professes his unrequited love and asks that she help him bring about a reconciliation. He believes James and Violet are fated to be together despite a horrible beginning resulting in Violet extracting a promise that she never had to see James again.
In rare, generous, moments, Violet knows her fascinating life over the past six years is due to James’s generosity. She’s also aware of the family history that has seeped in the households and properties he would lose if she didn’t play along. She also feels less risk thanks to Uncle Richard’s good planning, and so has the moral and financial high ground. She plans to extract a little revenge for his unthinking destruction of her reputation six years before.
James has matured in their time apart, but still manages to stumble over himself and make many mistakes on the path to convincing her of his true feelings. Violet does as well, but to a lesser degree, at least at first. The main and secondary characters offered many opportunities for issues, both amusing ones and those less so amusing, bringing the characters into more well-rounded form. This is especially true for Marcus, James’s solicitor and best friend, and Cleo, Violet’s secretary/companion become best friend since they met six years earlier.
I have a soft spot for second chances, and though James and Violet barely managed a first chance, it was delightful to ride along on their journey to discover both each other and themselves while burdened by past decisions and assumptions made by those around them. Secrets and assumptions did play a part in their struggles, but the main issue was one of trust. They’d both been subjects of gossip, and Violet wasn’t saying how much truth could be found in hers while James found his more embarrassing than anything else. There’s even a villain, though he’d consider himself the hero for reasonable reasons.
While I could predict the plot twists in advance (a particular talent of mine), I was nicely surprised by the effect the twist had on the characters. It gave both Violet and James the chance to stretch, grow, and mature into the people they had the potential to become, making their happily ever after just that much sweeter.
It was a delightful, amusing, and fun read, living up to my hopes in every measure.
P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and am delighted to offer my honest review.
P.P.S. True to the pattern set in the previous novel I read in this series, despite the rather Georgette Heyer tone, there is at least one ahem descriptive intimate scene and some rather blushingly indiscreet conversations