from our B review: On the upside, however, the story does use what is probably my favourite trope in the genre, that of a couple who is forced to marry for appearances’ sake, and who we then see adjusting to life together and eventually falling in love. Lady Esme Byron is one of the two remaining unwed Byron siblings, and while not against the idea of marriage in general – her brothers and sister are all blissfully happy – isn’t in a hurry, despite the fact that she’s already twenty and many other young ladies of her age are already settled with husbands and children. But she enjoys her life of relative freedom, surrounded by her menagerie of cats, dogs, a wounded hawk and the various other small animals she takes care of, and indulging her talent for drawing and painting. Unfortunately, however, that talent proves her undoing when, on one of her long rambles, she strays onto the adjoining property and spies an incredibly handsome man emerging from a swim in the lake. Her artist’s eye is caught; and when he stretches out on the grass and falls asleep – completely naked - she can’t resist the impulse to draw him. Well aware that what she’s doing is scandalous, Esme also knows she is unlikely to ever again have such an opportunity to draw from life. She will just have to make sure that she keeps her sketch securely hidden away. But of course, things like this never go according to plan and a mistake means Esme’s drawing is seen by her entire family and their guests. After that, there is only one way to prevent a massive scandal and protect her reputation. When he left London in order to rusticate in the peace and quiet of a friend’s country estate, Gabriel Lansdowne, Lord Northcote, hadn’t the least idea of becoming involved with any young woman, let alone ending up having to marry one. When suddenly confronted one evening by several large, angry men – including his London neighbours, Lords Leo and Lawrence Byron – he is at a loss to understand why they are so furious with him. His reputation is terrible, of course, but all the Byron men were just as bad before settling down, and he sure as hell hasn’t seduced or even met their sisters, so being accused of debauching one of them is a complete shock. A rakehell he may be, but a gentleman’s word counts for something and the Byrons accept Gabriel’s explanation that he has never met Esme; but even so, her reputation will be in tatters when word gets out about the sketch, and there’s no alternative but for him to marry her without delay.
Grade: BCheck Review