Jack entertains – and the romance is delightful (I do love the way Ms. Burrowes writes dialogue between her leads) – but compared to her other books, this one fails to stand out. It’s good but far from great.
Sir Jack Fanning returns to his estate in Oxfordshire after many years (and adventures) in India, only to discover he cannot control his own staff. On a visit to his close friend Axel Belmont and his new wife Abby, he’s introduced to Madeline Hennessey. During the course of his afternoon with the Belmonts, several things about Madeline become clear to Jack: aside from the fact that she’s pretty and feisty (ahem), Ms. Hennessey is an expert at household management. He’s determined to steal her away, and the Belmonts, secretly matchmaking, barely object to his attempt to poach their best and favorite employee. But Madeline resists – she has problems (and secrets) of her own, and only agrees to a temporary arrangement when she realizes the Belmonts are willing to let her go.
Convincing Madeline to restore order in his household only solves one of the problems currently plaguing Jack; he’s also the local magistrate and at his wits end trying to discover the person/persons behind a recent series of seemingly random petty crimes. Complicating his investigation is an underlying sense that the ‘crimes’ appear to benefit – rather than harm – the victims and the town. Meanwhile, Jack finds himself distracted by and attracted to his housekeeper, and in spite of her obvious attempts to maintain a distance between them, he decides he wants her in a more permanent role in his life. Unfortunately for Jack, Madeline’s secrets (and her murky origins) – and an unwillingness to unburden herself to Jack – prove a formidable obstacle to a romantic relationship between them.
Secrets. Silly secrets. In Jack, secrets (oh, and an interfering mother) keep Jack and Madeline apart for the better part of the story and the time answers are finally revealed, they are a bit anticlimactic. An astute reader would have guessed what was happening long before Jack does – and frankly, as the plot device that keeps Jack and Madeline apart, the secrets are a bit too contrived and silly to support this full length novel. I love most of Ms. Burrowes’ books; I didn’t love this one.