Three years ago, Frances Allard left her past behind to become a teacher at Miss Martin’s school for girls in Bath. One Christmas after visiting her elderly great-aunts, Frances’s carriage gets stuck in a snowstorm. Behind her is Lucius Marshall, Viscount Sinclair, a man who has just been admonished to settle down and take a wife. When his carriage knocks hers off the road, he is obliged to escort her to a mostly abandoned country inn. Two days is all it takes for them to cast a spell over each other, but Frances will not be his mistress and Lucius knows his grandfather has his ailing heart set on Lucius’s marriage with Portia Hunt. Three months later, Frances and Lucius meet again by chance, but he knows this time that he can’t let her slip away from him again.
This is the second book I’ve read by Mary Balogh and I found it just as enchanting as the first (Simply Perfect). We know from almost the beginning that Frances has “a past” which is preventing her from saying yes to marrying Lucius or even allowing him to court her, but that doesn’t stop his journey to win her over from making us fall in love with him. He’s a little too arrogant in his knowledge of what’s good for her, but the thing is, she does want to do everything he tries to get her to do, including marry him. She just has to break down the boundaries of her past first, and only by forcing her into society again will that happen, although Lucius doesn’t know it at the time. I did think Frances’s issues with her past a little exaggerated once we learn what they are, but this is not a romance which is heavy of external plot, nor does it matter.
Besides the characters, I also liked how this book portrays the struggle of contentment versus happiness. Contentment is generally relatively easy to attain. I’m content when I’m reading or thinking about history. I’m happy when I’m with Keith, and believe me, it was difficult and risky to get where we are today, and it’s going to be still more difficult to get where we want to be. It’s absolutely worth it. In this book, Frances is content as a schoolteacher and might even be content with her other beau. Lucius could be content with Portia and children. Together, they would be happy but it’s hard and risky to get there. I like that. It rings true to life and reminds us why taking risks to go after what we really want is so worth it. Doesn’t have to be a person of course, it’s true in all aspects of life.
Overall, I found this to be a moving and enjoyable novel. Definitely a worthy read for anyone who would like a little more romance in their lives. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.