In Grace Burrowes' last book, [b:Darius|15838403|Darius (Lonely Lords, #1)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358051006s/15838403.jpg|21577845], we learned that Darius Lindsey's father, the Earl of Wilton, is a mean, vengeful old man. Darius' sister, Lady Leah, is the primary target of his rage, and as this book opens he plans to marry her off to the poxy, disgusting old Lord Hellerington. Leah is stoic and resigned to her fate, particularly since the earl threatens to take out any disobedience by her on her two beloved brothers.
Nicholas Haddonfield, Viscount Reston, is heir to the Earl of Bellefont, and he has reluctantly promised his dying father to take a bride very soon. He meets Lady Leah, learns of her predicament, and quickly decides to help her, although at first he isn't sure how he can. Nick is just the type of gentleman to rescue a damsel in distress. He is a literally larger than life character -- big, handsome, charming, and ebulliently affectionate. Soon he realizes that he should marry Leah; he likes her, respects her, and knows she would make a perfect countess. Besides, he is not really looking for a love match. He proposes a marriage in name only to Leah, and although she has reservations she accepts.
Nick doesn't actually explain why he wants a chaste marriage, but he allows Leah to assume it is because he loves his mistress. And there is the mysterious blonde Leonie living on a nearby estate where Nick repeatedly visits.
The problem is that as time passes, Nick and Leah begin to fall in love. Nick has two reasons for his determination never to father a child. Both of them involves his erroneous assumptions about past events in his life, and both could have been resolved easily if he had just asked a few questions. This is a major weakness in the plot, but it doesn't ruin the entire book.
This is a beautiful, deeply heartfelt story of Nick and Leah coming to terms with each other and with their situation. Leah is a dauntless, but a bit dull. Nick, however, is utterly delightful. He loves women, horses, and small children. Everybody loves him in return, especially his eight siblings.
This also is a story of Nick coming to terms with his father's imminent demise and reconciling with his illegitimate older brother, Ethan (hero of the next story, [b:Ethan|16099895|Ethan (Lonely Lords, #3)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367615976s/16099895.jpg|21909622]). Their interaction with their father is quite touching, and the earl -- unafraid of death but fearful of losing dignity -- is a finely crafted secondary character. As is usual with Grace Burrowes, there are lots of other secondary characters, but I didn't find this cast of characters as confusing as I have in some of her other books.
As I always say, Grace Burrowes is a very good storyteller, and she does a very good job with this one despite creating a set of circumstances that tend to make Nick look like a big, dumb ox.