Stephen DeBurgh is one of seven DeBurgh brothers, each one more heroic than the last. Stephen is by far the most handsome, but unlike his brothers, he is content to stay at his father’s manor drinking and wenching. To Stephen's dismay, he is chosen by the l’Estrange sisters to escort their niece Brighid to her father’s home in Wales to claim her inheritance.
Brighid l’Estrange is none too pleased with this arrangement either. Trying to overcome the rumors about her family’s magical and mysterious powers, Brighid hides herself beneath a wimple and a prim, proper exterior. The last thing she needs is to travel with a womanizing drunkard. What her aunts Cafell and Armes haven’t told Brighid is that they have divined that Stephen is her destiny.
Brighid and Stephen set out to Wales, each with their own plans. Stephen sees “rigid Brighid” as a challenge and sets out to seduce her. Brighid merely wants to get to Wales without anyone finding out the true reason she needs to investigate her father’s sudden death. Neither of them is what they appear to be on the surface and that fact could both bring them together and tear them apart.
My Lord De Burgh started out rather slowly. At first the characters and storyline seem very familiar. Stephen is the typical arrogant scoundrel and Brighid comes off as an unreasonably stiff woman. As the book progresses though, Simmons invites the reader to look closer and discover the true nature of the characters. Stephen’s cloak of arrogance hides a sensitive man with deep emotions. He has always felt overshadowed by his brothers and considers himself unworthy of the De Burgh name. His beloved stepmother Anne was the only one who saw his potential, and after her death, Stephen is once again eclipsed by his siblings. Since that time Stephen has dulled his insecurities with alcohol and women.
Brighid, too, is hiding her true nature out of self-preservation. Fearful of the charge of witchcraft, she lives her life quietly in order not to draw attention. Ironically, it is this manner that draws attention from Stephen. As they travel to Wales, Brighid sees the chinks in Stephen’s shell and begins to draw him out. The emotional understanding Brighid reaches with Stephen despite his outward actions is believable and honest.
In one scene, Brighid regales Stephen with the rumors surrounding his brothers (such as one’s penchant for gambling) and in this subtle way helps him realize they are not as perfect as he thinks. The whole scene gave Stephen’s growing self confidence a realistic foundation. As Stephen’s confidence in himself grows, he is less inclined to rely on his crude façade, which then draws out Brighid’s passion. This wonderful sense of give and take is skillfully written. As each character allows their true self to emerge it draws out the other.
The book is also not cluttered with extraneous subplots or too many secondary characters. Readers can focus in on Stephen and Brighid’s evolving relationship and not be distracted by too many intrusions. There is one subplot in the second half of the book regarding Brighid's father, but it is interwoven well with the main story and does not take away from it. The few secondary characters are well developed, especially Cafell and Armes who are quite amusing in their lively scheming.
My Lord De Burgh is the fourth story featuring the De Burgh brothers, however it can stand alone. I had not read the others and I did not feel as if I was missing anything that may have come before. I will definitely be on the lookout for the others though, as well as the stories of the three remaining De Burghs.