Lady Elizabeth Wylder's late father contracted for her to marry the Duke of Hawkesworth, great-grandson of the king via one of his mistresses. "Hawke" has spent the last few years enjoying himself at his villa in Naples, where he dallies with the ladies and collects fabulous Italian art. He must marry Lizzie, however, before her nineteenth birthday or else he'll lose all of his wealth and property. He reluctantly returns to England, but because he's self-indulgent and a bit spoiled he keeps putting off his first meeting with his betrothed.
At the opera one night, he spots a beautiful woman and is instantly drawn to her. He can barely believe it when he runs into the same woman at a masquerade at Ranelagh several nights later on. You will not be surprised to learn that the woman is, in fact, Lizzie.
Hawke is delighted with his intended bride -- she's lovely and passionate and shares his interest in art. He decides to enjoy the marriage for as long as the fun part lasts, and until Lizzie produces an heir, whereupon he'll return to his life in Naples -- without his wife. Lizzie, having seen a true loving marriage in the example of her own parents, is ecstatic over her wonderful new husband. She wants to be a good wife, and a good duchess, which in the eyes of society may not amount to the same thing.
This story presents an interesting contrast to the first book in the series, When You Wish Upon a Duke, where Lizzie's older sister marries the Duke of Marchbourne (Hawke's cousin), who is everything a proper duke should be. So proper, in fact, that he hardly knows how to behave when he falls in love with his wife. Here, Hawke cares not at all about being a proper duke; he simply wants to enjoy his wife and his art and forget about everything else.
Hawke and Lizzie are both rather immature and selfish, but Isabella Bradford devises a lovely story showing how they grow and change and come to terms with the roles that life has given them. Unlike the first book, which simply didn't have enough plot to carry an entire novel, there's a bit more angst and drama. Bradford is well-versed on her history, and she makes Georgian England society come alive. But, I'm still left with wanting something . . . more.
Isabella Bradford is a wonderful writer, though, and I'll definitely be reading the next installment, where the youngest Wylder sister finds her duke.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Ballantine for give me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.