Henry Middlebrook is back from fighting Napoleon, ready to re-enter London society where he left it. Wounded and battle weary, he decides that the right wife is all he needs. Selecting the most desirable lady in the ton, Henry turns to her best friend and companion to help him with his suit . . .
Young and beautiful, war widow Frances Whittier is no stranger to social intrigue. She finds Henry Middlebrook courageous and manly, unlike the foppish aristocrats she is used to, and is inspired to exercise her considerable wit on his behalf. But she may be too clever for her own good, and Frances discovers that she has set in motion a complicated train of events that’s only going to break her own heart..
Rating: A for content, A- for narration
It Takes Two to Tangle is the first in a new trilogy from Theresa Romain, and it’s an extremely strong start to the series. It’s a beautifully written, character-driven romance that’s full of warmth and humour in which the two principals are both people who have been affected in different ways by war, and who have to learn to accept their pasts and move on.
Henry Middlebrook has recently returned from the continent, having been seriously wounded in the battle at Quatre Bras. While physically intact, he has completely lost the use of his right arm, and every day, has to face the realities of the things he is no longer able to do, from the ‘big’ things, like being able to write to smaller ones like being able to handle a cup and saucer, or hold a woman during a waltz. He doesn’t want pity; he doesn’t want allowances made. He just wants to get on with his life, a sentiment which is fully endorsed by his brother and sister-in-law, who are so relieved to have him back home in (almost) one piece that they fail to see the changes that have taken place on the inside.
As part of “operation re-introduce Henry to society”, his sister-in-law has decided he needs to find himself the right wife, and she knows just the woman. Lady Caroline Stratton is a widow of some nine years standing, and is the most sought-after lady in the ton. She’s beautiful, intelligent and wealthy – and Henry immediately realises he will need a bit of help if he is to secure her hand.
To that end, he approaches Caro’s companion – her cousin, Mrs Frances Whittier, also a widow, whose husband was killed in the early days of the war. He and Frances hit it off immediately and the air fairly crackles between them as they trade quips and engage in a little low-level flirtation. But while he certainly enjoys Frances’ company, it’s Caro he wants to pursue, so he asks Frances if she will give him the odd piece of advice in order to help advance his cause. For the first time since her husband’s death, Frances has found a man who attracts her – but she is not unused to being overlooked in favour of her vivacious cousin, and because she likes Henry and desires his happiness, she agrees to help him.
On the surface, Frances is the perfect lady’s companion; loyal and a little austere, but underneath, she is somewhat impulsive, a trait which has led her astray once before, and which she allows to get the better of her when she writes Henry a letter telling him how much she enjoyed meeting him and that she looks forward to furthering their friendship. It isn’t the done thing for a lady – even a widow – to write to an unmarried man, so Frances signs the letter merely “a friend”, sure that the references to their conversations the previous evening will leave Henry in no doubt as to her identity.
Unfortunately, Henry is so single-mindedly bent on his pursuit of Caro that he immediately jumps to the conclusion that the letter is from her and starts wondering how on earth he is to reply. He can’t write at all well with his left hand and doesn’t want to ask Jem or Emily for help – but there is one person he can trust.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.