The mood of this book is set from the first sentence of the prologue, and it is obvious that Rightfully His is no light-hearted romp. Rather, it is a melancholy book with a complicated plot, deep emotions, and lots of family secrets. I found the plot and the characters fascinating. However, the writing is extremely detailed, and it takes the hero and heroine a very long time to fall in love. I enjoyed the originality of the plot so much that I was willing to overlook my annoyances with the book, but be warned: It’s not for everyone.
Charlotte de Ribard’s father, Daniel, has returned from exile and issued her an ultimatum: She must sell her estate to him, or he will ruin her brother-in-law’s political career. Daniel de Ribard wants to expand his interests by building a railroad on Charlotte’s property. He has evidence that Silverton (the brother-in-law) took a bribe, and he wants to use that evidence to help him get the railroad built. Frank Storbridge is Silverton’s greatest rival in the House of Commons, and he will be given the evidence if Charlotte does not comply. Charlotte is already acquainted with Frank, who was, at one time, in her father’s employ. At that time, he and Charlotte were friends, but when Daniel went into exile, she and Frank’s friendship ended. Now she isn’t sure she can trust him, but soon decides her only choice is to ask Frank for his help. She tells him of Daniel’s plot to ruin Silverton’s career, and begs him to take the evidence and burn it. Frank agrees on one condition – Charlotte must marry him. Feeling that she has no other choice, Charlotte accepts.
After Frank gets the evidence, he marries Charlotte, and Daniel knows he has been tricked. He vows revenge at any cost, and starts to hurt Charlotte and Frank in every possible way. First he goes after Frank’s business interests, and then he starts to trap Frank’s wards with his nefarious schemes. Frank and Charlotte know that Daniel must be stopped, and they hatch an elaborate plan to entrap him. But Daniel is a formidable opponent with many tricks up his sleeve.
While Charlotte and Frank work together to stop Daniel, Charlotte slowly learns that Frank is an honorable man, and she begins to let down her guard. Frank has always loved Charlotte, but when she was his employer’s daughter, she was out of his reach. He hopes that their marriage can be a real one, but first Charlotte must learn to trust him. Both of them have secrets; Charlotte was engaged to another man who was part of her father’s murder scheme five years ago, and their relationship had tragic consequences. Frank was married before, to a woman whose father helped him get his parliamentary seat. On top of that, the first wife’s brothers and sisters are now Frank’s wards. There are some complications as they grow to accept Charlotte.
The plot is extremely complicated and hard to explain. There are at least a dozen more characters who are all integral to the plot, but they are far too numerous to name. Somehow the author manages to tie all the plots and sub-plots together in a convincing way. Many of the secondary characters were introduced in previous books, but I had no trouble keeping them straight. I found them all interesting, particularly Silverton and his wife Celine (who is Charlotte’s sister).
I also liked both the main characters, especially Frank. He is a radical politician who has a good heart, but knows that compromise is necessary. He struggles with self-doubt, and worries about the morality of his choices. His love for Charlotte and his patience with her are endearing. Charlotte is the more tortured character. Until she found out how amoral her father was, she loved him deeply. His betrayal turned her world upside down, making it difficult for her to trust anyone. While I sometimes felt impatient with her for taking so long to believe in Frank, I felt that she was redeemed by her honesty and fondness for Frank’s wards.
I enjoyed the uniqueness of this book’s plot, and found the setting fascinating; Ms. Grant manages to sneak in a lot of information about railroad expansion and parliamentary politics. I found it refreshing to read about a hero who had other interests besides masquerade balls and managing an estate.
But – an this could be a big but for many readers – the writing is extremely detailed. What do I mean by that? Well, for example, there is an entire paragraph explaining the order in which five people emerge from a carriage; this one first, then this one, etc. This is the type of information that could have been explained in a short sentence. The book is full of such unnecessary paragraphs. Clothing, paintings, dinnerware, and floor coverings are described with similar enthusiasm. Sometimes the reader is forced to wait impatiently for the action to begin while a room is described. While some readers will find this allows them to form a vivid picture in their heads, others will be driven to distraction by all the detail. Fortunately there is less detail toward the end when the book really gets going, but it takes a while for this to happen.
The other problem is that it takes Charlotte and Frank a long time to resolve their feelings for each other, and there are no love scenes until they do. This made for a long wait. The love scene was brief but well-written, and I thought it should have come much earlier in the book. At times the relationship between the main characters really took a back seat while they dealt with all the secondary characters.
Over all, I enjoyed this book for its characters and originality. But if a lot of detail annoys you, you should probably look elsewhere. If you think you can get past Ms. Grant’s descriptive style, Rightfully His is definitely worth a shot.