Copyright: 2005, Harlequin (296 pages)
Series: Historical #830
Violence: nothing significant
Where & When: Regency England; December 1814
Who: Hester Lattimer and Guy Westrope, Earl of Buckland
Summary (back blurb): Local ghost stories would not scare Hester from her new house —- especially not at Christmas! Though her heart told her to trust the mysterious earl, she knew she had to be wary. Even if Guy as not behind the strange events, letting him get too close would inevitably reveal her scandalous past!
Comments: I chose this book because I had enjoyed two other books written by Ms. Allen. Her heroines are usually rational women and her heroes are usually strong without being too Alpha: they aren’t afraid to admit they’ve made a mistake.
Hester is impetuous and kind-hearted young woman. She bought Moon House after seeing it only once, when she passed through the village of Winterbourne St. Swithin. She is determined to make it a home and establish herself respectfully in the neighborhood. Her household consists of Susan, her housemaid; Miss Maria Prudhome, her companion/chaperone; and Jethro Ackland, her teenage butler/groom. They no sooner arrive at their new home when Hester is called upon by the Earl of Buckland
Guy is interested in Moon House. He learned, too late, that it was on the market. He has come to Winterbourne St. Swithin with the hope of persuading the new owner to sell it to him. Hester refuses, of course. Guy won’t tell her why he’s interested in the house, and he is not discouraged by her answer either. He doesn’t get far into his campaign to change her mind when strange things begin to happen at Moon House. Before long, Guy, Hester, and her household are working together to solve the mystery and expose the guilty party. Guy also comes to realize that he’s more interested in courting Hester than trying to persuade her to sell the house. He’s falling in love.
Hester is also attracted to him but is hesitant to encourage it, due to the undeserved smear on her reputation. Guy’s initial reaction to the rumors regarding her past gives her the impression that he believes them instead of trusting in her. Hester refuses to explain the situation to a man who claims to love her one moment, but then doesn’t trust her the next. Guy quickly realizes that he blundered and must convince her he loves her, despite the rumors.
Though the story is set in December, the primary focus is on the mystery and not the holiday season. I thought it was obvious who the guilty party was and how the culprit was getting into the house to cause mischief. The “why” of Guy’s interest in the house, and the motive for “ghostly” activity were easy to guess if you paid attention to the clues. I enjoyed the book. There were some cute moments and Guy could be witty at times.
“Your clothes must be filthy.”
“My valet sent me out in my second-best housebreaking outfit.”
– Hester, Guy
Guy suppressed a smile. The automatic reaction of the household to any emergency appeared to be to put the kettle on.
– Guy’s observation of Hester’s staff
“I must win some sort of prize for the most wretchedly timed proposal ever. You are cold, shaken, hurt and we are standing in a filthy barn at midnight. I think I must take you home, call again and attempt to do this once more in form.”
Started: 13 November 2007
Finished: 30 November 2007