Tis The Season to be Sinful
Zebra, Oct 4 2011, $6.99
In 1858 England, American businessman Richard Harper arrives at Highgrove Manor to buy the place. He explains to widow Juliet Wentworth, mother of three young children he needs it for a short time. He offers her a deal she cannot refuse since this enable her and her family to no longer remain impoverished as they are now since her brother-in-law Hastings gives them very little money. Juliet tells her sons she sold the estate. Hastings yells at Juliet that as co-guardian he will not allow the sale to occur. Richard tells Juliet her joking comment when they met is the answer. Thus they agree to a marriage of convenience with Richard’s stipulation being no future kids and her point that the estate belongs to Edgar.
He meets the kids and knows Edgar is hostile; James is curious; and Lizzie is guileless. After they marry, they make love. He asks her to redesign the house as he leaves on extended business. While he is away they exchange letters in which he begins to open up and trust her opinion. As the married couple falls in love and his new sons prank him, he wins over the children when he defends them at the cost of a business deal.
The lead male is a refreshing character as he is all business even in marriage until he falls in love. His stand re his stepsons vs. a business partner is terrific. The secondary cast including the nice late first husband enhances the story line. Although the odious brother-in-law is the negative matchmaker, he vanishes from the story line. Still in spite of no major villain and muted conflict, this is an entertaining Victorian romance.