Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was hands down one of the best Mary Balogh books I have ever read. I loved it and I didn’t want it to end.
Anna Snow is an orphan, but it was not until the death of her father that she learned that she was not who she always thought she was. She has lived almost her entire life at an orphanage in Bath – never knowing who her family was or how she came to be there. All she knows is that she has a benefactor who has been paying to support her and will continue to do so, until she leaves the orphanage. Her life changes the day she receives a letter with a summons to London.
The Earl of Riverdale has died and Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby has been named guardian of Harry Westcott, the new earl until he reaches his majority. The old earl left no will, but all seems in order, so Avery is a bit surprised when the Countess of Riverdale asks him to meet with her and the solicitor without the new earl. Turns out the Countess would like the solicitor to find her late husband’s illegitimate daughter and settle a sum of money on her as long as she agrees to never contact the family or make any future claims. She is adamant that she does not want anyone especially her two daughters, Lady Camille, Lady Abigail or her son Harry, the Earl of Riverdale to know about the girl and wants to know nothing about her herself. She asks Avery to oversee this and he reluctantly agrees.
Avery comes across as an indolent, selfish fop – but he is anything but. He seems disinterested and uncaring, but he isn’t – he is unknown and unknowable – or is he?
Anna comes to London and is given the shock of her life – she is not alone – she has a large family that she never knew and never knew of her. She is also the sole legitimate child of the late earl. It seems the late earl married Anna’s mother and when her mother got ill and return with Anna to her parent’s home – the earl returned to his former life and remarried, but the problem is he remarried 4 months before his first wife died! Suddenly the table have turned and the bastard child is the lady and has inherited the family fortune! But she loses what she wants most – the brother and sisters that she always wanted.
Anna tries to make peace with her siblings, but they want nothing to do with her and refuse to take anything from her. Her extended family of Aunts and cousins, step in and begin the transformation of Anna from orphan to Lady Anastasia Westcott. Avery watches from the sidelines and steps in to rescue Anna more than once when she seems overwhelmed.
Avery’s reaction to Anna mystifies him – she is nothing like any woman he has ever met and he is sure that he cannot be attracted to her. But attracted he is and when Anna’s family suggests she marry Alexander, the new earl – Avery steps in and tells her she could marry him.
For her part, Anna is just as confused about her feelings toward Avery as he is to her. But with Avery she feels safe and she agrees to marry him. Once they marry, he takes her to find her maternal grandparents and then back to Bath to visit her sisters and the orphanage. They seem like they are off to a great start and very happy – but all that changes when they return to London.
Once back in London, they start to drift apart and they both long to recapture the closeness they had on their honeymoon, but neither really knows how. It isn’t until Avery is ready to open up and let Anna know him that they find their HEA.
This book was well written, flows nicely, has a bit of drama, a lot of laughter, some mild love scenes and an absolutely beautiful declaration scene. The book does set up the series, but I never felt like Anna and Avery got lost in the process. I would happily recommend this book and am eagerly awaiting the rest of the series!