HIS FAMILY OR HIS HEART–ONE OF THEM WILL BE BETRAYED…
Ian MacGregor is wooing a woman who’s wrong for him in every way. As the new Earl of Balfour, though, he must marry an English heiress to repair the family fortunes.
But in his intended’s penniless chaperone, Augusta, Ian is finding everything he’s ever wanted in a wife.
This is the second book by Grace Burrowes that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. In it, we meet Ian MacGregor, Earl Balfour and his family – his brothers Gil and Connor, his widowed sister Mary Frances and her daughter, Flora. Ian might be an earl, but the family is poor and needs to open their estate to guests every summer in order to make enough money to see them through the year. Ian needs to marry money, and the story begins with him meeting his prospective bride and her family from the train as they are to be summer guests.
It quickly becomes apparent, both to Ian and to the reader, that the lady in question is very reluctant to marry him; not only that, she is resistant to getting to know him, despite his attempts to draw her out and his reassurances that he will be a kind and loyal husband.
While he is attempting to court Eugenia (known as Genie), Ian forms a friendship with Augusta Merrick, Genie’s cousin who has been brought along to act as a second chaperone, along with their aunt. Augusta is the classic “poor relation”, living in a run-down house with her cat, keeping chickens and tending to her garden.
This friendship quickly develops into something more – even though both Ian and Augusta know that there is no hope for anything lasting between them as Ian needs to marry for money and Augusta is poor.
The thing I absolutely loved about this book was the way in which the relationship unfolded gradually and with such tenderness.
Ian is decent and honourable, determined to do his best for his family, and yet he cannot help his growing attraction to Augusta. And Augusta understands what drives him – she recognises that he needs to be loved for himself and not for the title Genie’s father is determined to buy. She is also practical – she knows Ian cannot marry her, but is prepared to take – and to give – the little comfort she can without regrets.
The focus of the story was watching these two people fall so desperately in love while knowing it’s doomed – but yet know that regardless of the impending heartbreak, they are better for having known each other.
The title, I realised about half-way through, doesn’t just refer to Ian, as both Gil and Connor find love, too; I really liked the way that the familial relationships were written.
There is another element to the story, which is the plot by Genie’s father to do away with Augusta because he had cheated her out of her inheritance. I’m not a huge fan of this sort of sensationalist storyline, but it works well here, principally, in my opinion, because it’s subtly woven through the background of the story and doesn’t really come to the fore until the last couple of chapters when we finally learn the truth and all is resolved.
I did have some niggles about the use of Americanisms in the book (we don’t have fall and we wouldn’t fix a plate for someone), and at the risk of sounding pedantic, things like that DO take me out of the story for a second or two and I find it annoying.
Overall though, this was a superb and charming romance, full of warmth and tenderness. I found it emotionally draining at times – but I mean that as a compliment! – and I thought that the characterisation was excellent. I’m certainly looking forward to the next in this series.
With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.