Harrington bases Annabelle (Belle) Green's story around the laws of inheritance and matrimony pursuant to regency times. When a woman married her property becomes her husband's to do with as he willed.
However the twist in this story is that Belle has been left an estate by her benefactor's husband near the Scottish border that will revert to the church if she's not married by her twenty-fifth birthday. Belle must marry to retain her home she loves dearly. But whom is there to marry who will let her retain oversight of her beloved Castle Glenarvon.
And there's the rub. Belle has been more or less away from society due to having been caught in an interesting situation at a ball six years ago with the rake, Quinton Carlisle, her nemesis and one of her oldest childhood friends.
The third son of a duke, Quinn is about to set sail for America to take up land and a new future.
However his aunt Agnes, Belle's benefactress wants him to vet Belle's suitors and help with Belle's situation. As both Belle and Aunt Agnes see it, Quinn owes Belle. After all it takes a rogue to know a rogue. Here's the thing, Quinn has always been taken with his blue stocking friend Belle, but love and marriage has no part to play in his life, for a variety of reasons. A driving one being that all he has seen of love is the heartache and hurt when a partner dies, not the joy. Another reason is that Quinn wants to be his own man and prove himself, which is what the land in America promises.
I found the characters somewhat obtuse as they battled their own inclinations. Lost in their own realities, they both seemed unwilling to entertain alternatives.
The story has a supercilious suitor, sabotage, love denied, and the drama around Belle's best course of action. As Belle's sad childhood is revealed, Quinn fights his inclination to protect her. As the attraction between Belle and himself becomes an unstoppable flame, Quinn continues to fight the notion of love, but the chemistry between them has little chance of being denied. Quinn is continually fighting duty and attraction.
The solution ends up being an elegant surprise with a few twists that shows that all the angst might have been avoided with a good dose of reality. Still this is a romantic regency novel not real life.
A NetGalley ARC