Author: Diane Farr
Copyright: 2002 (Signet); pgs. 344
Who: Lady Olivia Fairfax and George Carstairs, Baron Rival
George Carstairs is good-looking and charming. He’s far from rich, however. Having inherited a destitute estate at a young age, George has lived hand-to-mouth for many years. He has no servants, not even a valet — he must press his own linen and polish his own boots. And, at the start of the book, he doesn’t even own a carriage. So far, he’s kept his true financial plight from most of the ton. He has survived all these years by relying on his luck at the card table, developing a knack for economizing. But all his plans to turn the estate around require capital to implement. No one in his right mind would loan George the amount of money he needs for the project. George has only one choice. He must marry an wealthy heiress.
Lady Olivia Fairfax is on the shelf. After her mother’s death, she never returned to society and has established a school in her mother’s memory with the inheritance from her mother’s estate. The inheritance from her father is substantial enough for her name to be on Lord Rival’s list. Because she was raised by a domineering father, she has no desire to allow another man control her life, and therefore she is not interested in marrying.
When they first meet, Olivia recognizes his name — and his reputation. She lets Lord Rival believe that she is someone other than the wealthy Lady Olivia — an obviously well-bred, educated, but not wealthy woman named Ivy. During the course of this deception, Lord Rival reveals to her that he is pursuing Lady Olivia primarily for her fortune and asks for any information she can give him (i.e., her personality, her appearance). Of course, Olivia lies.
Also during this short acquaintance, Lord Rival finds that he really likes Ivy, that he’s drawn to her. Learning that Olivia and Ivy are the same person is both amazing good fortune and very bad luck. Having his objective known means it will be an uphill battle for him, but because he already admires and respects Olivia, George is willing to make an effort to win her hand. George’s intentions are honorable. He has every intention of marrying her and he is willing to woo her properly.
For her part, Olivia’s dull life has been enlivened by her acquaintance with George. Olivia wants to have things both ways: she enjoys his attention, but she doesn’t want to be more than friends. She suggest that, if George can’t win her hand in five months, then he should give up and move on. He agrees.
One of the reasons for Olivia’s reluctance is that she was duped once before by a fortune hunter — a fortune hunter who had no interest whatsoever in her as a person. No matter how sincere George appears to be in his admiration of her, she doesn’t trust him. Because of this, it’s only when they are both in a similar financial situation before either can fully realize how much they really love each other.
I really enjoyed this book. I was charmed by George. His reasons for wanting to marry are no different from most of the ton, and he values Olivia for her abilities as much as he needs her money. And he loves her, though he doesn’t realize how much because it is tangled up with his desire to save Rye Vale. I thought that Olivia was behaving like a tease at times, but I could understand her predicament.
Started: 4 May 2008
Finished: 10 May 2008