Genre: historical romance.
His unexpected bride.
Wealthy landowner Simon Clare shuns Northumbrian society. With his son gravely ill, the last thing Simon needs is an interfering woman assuming command of his household and nursing young Robert - no matter how sensuous her figure, or how tempting her luscious lips. Phoebe Benedict knows what it is to struggle, and finds herself drawn to the badly scarred recluse. Despite his tough exterior, she knows that Simon is a father who yearns for his son to recover - and a man who misses the tender embrace of a woman.
When his 10 year old son Robert gets sich with Scarlett Fever, Simon Clare sends desperately for his sister Diana to come home. But Diana is recently married, and pregnant, and can’t risk her unborn child, travelling in winter. So she sends her husbands cousin Miss Phoebe Benedict.
When Phoebe’s father committed suicide because of his many debts, her brother became the next Viscount. But money was tight, and he married fast, and fathered a child, only to die himself. And the new widow is not that fond of Phoebe, nor are she and Phoebe’s stepmother inclined to economize, no matter what Phoebe tries to teach them. Her two other stepbrothers need her help, and so she has decided to visit her cousin and ask him to buy her oldest stepbrother a post in the army. But as she does not want to take charity, she is more than happy to go nurse a sick child, after all, she has lots of experience with that.
Simon Clare is none too happy to find Phoebe on his doorstep in the snowstorm, and is not inclined to let her enter. His son has been calling for his aunt, and now he should take in this stranger? But Phoebe is not a shy miss, and she manages to convince Simon to give her a change. Upon entering the sickroom, they discover the windows wide open, and the child standing on his bed, calling for his aunt. The incompetent nurse has gone against Simon’s orders on keeping the windows closed and is dismissed at once. When Robert refuses to take his medicine, laudanum, Simon is ready to call in some footmen with ropes to tie the child to his bed, something Phoebe finds horrible!
She takes Simon apart, and asks him to give her a chance, she will convince the boy to behave and take his medicine, the ropes really are not necessary!
Phoebe succeeds, and Simon reluctantly agrees to let her stay. He is not fond of strangers as he is scarred badly since the accident with his new travelling engine a few months ago. Some nosy neighbour even called him a fiend! And so he has not gone out of the house very much, even neglecting his colliery. His servants are afraid of him and his temper, and the house has not been cleaned very well for a while. It clearly needs a new mistress, but after the disaster of his first marriage, Simon has vowed never to marry again. So his interest in and attraction to Phoebe, is not welcome. He will not be so ungentlemanly as make her his mistress, and he will not seduce her when she is a guest in his home.
Phoebe is a spinster and firmly on the shelf. She even went to school with his late wife, so she knew her, but they were no friends. Jayne did not like competition from other women, and Phoebe was also very pretty when they debuted. Simon doesn’t want her to tell his son about his mother, he wants him to forget everything about her. Apparently, she was not a very good mother. She even insinuated that Simon is not his father, but Phoebe sees the resemblance between them and won’t believe that.
Simon tries to run away from his attraction to her, but one day, he does kiss her, and decides they know have to be married. Phoebe has fallen in love with him, and hopes one day he will love her back, even though he tells her plainly that he does not believe in love, and that this will be a marriage of convenience only. He is rich enough to keep her in style, so she does not have to be worried about that. He needs a housekeeper, and Robert needs a mother. And so Phoebe accepts, hurt when her family is totally not interested in coming down to be witness. But where else is she to go when Robert is better again?
They are pretty compatible inside the marriage bed, but outside of it, Simon tries to avoid her. And what will his beloved sister think of their hasty marriage? Will she accept Phoebe?
I really like Michelle Styles’ writing style. I thought I would know what would happen next, what they would do or say, and I was so wrong. This is not a cliché of a story, or textbook characters. Simon is still suffering from his wounds, his leg and his eye and they give him headaches. Climbing the stairs to the nursery to visit with his son, is difficult. And the pain would make him snap at the boy, something he also does not want to do. Phoebe first thinks he does not care about Robert, but that is certainly not true. He cares very much, and he wants his boy back to how he was before the illness. Recovering will take Robert many weeks. Simon was hurt badly by his wife’s infidelity, and everything else she did, and he won’t fall for Phoebe! Well of course he does, but he does fight very hard.
If you like tortured heroes, with scars and bad tempers, you might like this book. If you like strong heroines, who stand up to a man and manage him, you will like this book even more. There are some lovescenes, but not too hot or detailed, they do fit the story nicely. According to fantasticfiction, this is a stand alone novel, but I don’t believe that. I think Diana’s story was the previous one. But this is still perfectly readable as a stand alone novel.
I was given this book by the author at the Autoren Love Letter Convention in Berlin in July 2012. It is signed and dedicated. Michelle Styles is such a nice English lady, with great shoes!
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian