Margaret de Lacey has accepted her modest life as a spinster after realizing she is handsome and not terribly beautiful with no huge dowry to help tempt a man from all the other bevy of beauties. When her brother unexpectedly inherits the dukedom of Durham, both of their lives are drastically changed. Her brother, Francis, settles the huge sum of forty thousand pounds for her dowry with the hopes of Margaret finally finding her own happiness. Naturally, all the broke, down on their luck, titled gentleman start calling on her but Margaret only wants to marry for love, for herself, not for money.
Rhys Corwen, Earl of Dowling, is one such man very much down on his luck. His father gambled away his fortune and now his home in literally falling down around him and after a bad flood involving his sheep, he is just steps from ruination. His delightful friend, Clyve, helpfully provides a list of wealthy ladies and together they set out to met these ladies and see if any will do as a bride. Margarets name is the highest on the list, of course, with her huge dowry and when he finally makes her acquaintance, well that encounter will have you laughing for sure! Rhys quickly realizes that Margaret isn't a beautiful, biddable girl, rather she is a woman of passion and spirit with a sharp, bold wit about her. And he knows she is the one he wants...forever.
Margaret wants nothing to do with money hungry gentleman but she just can't shake Rhys from her mind. Rhys keeps showing up at events that Margaret is at and always finding a chance to talk to her for a moment and when they finally sneak off into a garden for a moment, they have one of my favorite moments.
"How many kisses?" he murmured.
"Just one will do" ...
"How long a kiss?" He brushed his lips against the corner of her mouth.
"How long do you need" She swayed against him...
"To kiss you properly?" He smiled. "A lifetime Maggie." Sigh!
For my first Caroline Linden story, this was an excellent start. It is just a wonderful romance about Rhys and Maggie (as he calls her). There are some good supporting characters in his friend Clyve, and Maggies new friend Clarissa. There was a small hiccup at the end of the book involving Francis and Rhys but I was very happy with the way that played out. It really brought a big smile to my face and made my heart sigh a bit. My only small complaint is, as it always seems to be with novellas, is I wanted a bit more. I would have liked to have seem a bit more of Rhys and Maggies courtship and some more snappy encounters. Overall though, this is a wonderful romance novella. Enjoyable characters, main and secondary, great dialogue and some heat help move this story from start to finish very well. I know I have very happy to have the start of Ms Lindens new trilogy (of which this story is a prequel for) ready to go! I hope to see more of this great couple and how the secret of Francis changes his sons' lives! 4 solid stars