|This sequel to the well received novel, Confessions of an Improper Bride. about the Donovans is a story that was gripping from the start, with a decent suspenseful interlude and a very nice love story. It wasn't perfect, but it was very good.
Olivia Donovan is the "middle" sister of five girls raised in Antigua and only recently arriving in England. One died on the voyage over, one married an Earl and one a Mister. Both are very happy. The youngest, Jessica, is a happy go lucky lass who loves the excitement of the ton, and plays a substantial role in the suspense part of this story. But Olivia is a woman who has suffered from malaria and her family has always coddled her. She has become independent because she hates the coddling, even while she accepts it and recognizes it is based on love. While wanting to be as independent as possible, she has conceded that she will live with her sisters and will never marry because no man would ever want a woman who suffers from her fevers several times a year, nor one who may or may not be able to have children.
Maxwell Buchanan, current Marquis of Halsey and soon to be Duke of Wakefield, is immediately attracted to her and yet he too is determined that he will never marry. His father was abusive to his mother and he fears he holds too much of the man in him to ever take the chance that he too will hurt a woman. His nemesis, Lord Fenwicke, notices that he is attracted and goads him into a wager - Halsey will not be able to bed Olivia by the end of the year. Fenwicke's reasoning was that if she turned him down, then she is a cold fish and will bed no one. Since Max doesn't even know the woman, while he regrets the wager, he is led by his hatred of Fenwicke.
From here the story has two spokes - one is the romance between Max and Olivia. The other is the threat from Fenwicke. The romance is aided by a hunting party at Olivia's brother-in-law's home which Max attends. Max becomes so enamored of Olivia that he dismisses the bet and doesn't even think about it. He and Olivia have a bond of friendship that flows into love. It is fun and engaging and while, not fully following the protocols of the ton, it is still good enough to enjoy on its own merit. But life is not idyllic. Fenwicke has a very dark side that bubbles over onto the Donovans.
This story has ups and downs but generally it is well written and keeps the reader turning the pages. It is scary at times and Fenwicke is a true villain. The author throws some light on the fact that titles tend to get in the way of justice and because of that, the players take on a lot of the responsibility for the law. This is perhaps, the down side to the story, but at the same time, it is probably realistic for the times.
I enjoyed Secrets of an Accidental Duchess and look forward to the next installment of the series by Jennifer Haymore.