Colton Wyndham left home as a teenager after his father tried to force a betrothal between him and their neighbor’s youngest daughter, then age six. Adriana Sutton was in the hallway when Colton violently rejected the idea of such a betrothal and left home purchase a commission in the British army. Adriana has carried hurt feelings ever since.
Colton returns to his ancestral home after his father dies. He has to take on the duties of Marquess of Randwulf. His first meeting with Adriana as an adult leaves him stunned and lustful because she has turned from a thin child with enormous eyes into an exquisite beauty. She is being pursued by a number of aristocrats; as well as by an overeager apprentice, Roger. Roger is not of the aristocracy, yet deludes himself that Adriana will marry him. He hates Colton on sight. Another of Adriana’s suitors is Riordan, a duke.
Colton learns that his father and Adriana’s father signed a document requiring him to court Adriana for ninety days. It was his father’s greatest wish that they marry and Colton would be required to pay her father monetary compensation if he does not court Adriana. Colton is no more pleased as an adult than he was as an adolescent to have his hand forced in such a way. While deciding whether to honor the contract, he makes several crude advances to Adriana. His only thoughts seem to be how to get her into bed.
Much ado ensues as Adriana and Colton dance around each other, and other suitors try to persuade Adriana to marry them instead. Several scheming secondary characters create havoc and it seems that Adriana and Colton will never determine if they are right for each other.
Ms. Woodiwiss has written several engrossing novels, but this one is not. Her hero is ambivalent with less than honorable intentions; her heroine is spoiled and immature. The secondary characters take over the story several times, though one of them redeems herself as a result of tragedy and mistreatment; it takes a great deal away from the primary relationship. I am a voracious reader, yet I had difficulty starting the book, and then I found it took me several days to finish it. Her writing style seems stuck in the late 1970’s. I cannot recommend this book in hardcover; however, once it comes out in paperback it could be worth getting for fans of her writing.
Nancy Riggins-Hume, July 2003