Maria Addams has always been a hopeless romantic, spinning fantasies of knights-errant performing heroic deeds for her. Coming from a long line of soldiers, Jared Branden is the pragmatic type. Yet they say that opposites attract, which Maria uses to explain her whirlwind romance with Jared, but those opposites eventually repel as well, as Maria learned first hand watching her parent's marriage. When Jared saved her from her fractious horse, Maria believed she had found her knight in shining armor, but as their courtship evolved and St. Valentine's Day approached, the shine on Jared's armor dulled and Maria left Jared waiting at the altar.
In the ten years since he was jilted by Maria, Jared has become increasingly reckless with his life. He joined the army where he was wounded in the leg, and he now whiles away his days by drinking and gambling entirely too much. His penchant for drinking and gambling leads to his most reckless act yet: a Valentine's Day encounter with Maria Addams.
With her romantic idealism as strong as ever, Maria returns to London, still mourning the Italian Count she married after running from Jared, and established herself as a matchmaker and rescuer of desperate young girls. Miss Lucas is in desperate need of saving from an unwanted betrothal, while Maria inadvertently needs rescuing from Jared's uncle who thinks to match himself with Maria, but with a little sleight of hand, it is Jared and Maria who are paired up at the Valentine's Day ball. Ten years is a long time though, and Cupid has a lot of lost time to make up for.
The Valentine's Day Ball by Susan Carroll is a lovely traditional Regency that is perfect for Valentine's Day. It is a story of young love lost then rediscovered after each has matured making that first love even stronger. Ignored by her father after her mother's death, Maria made up stories of a doting father to ease her loneliness which makes her an empathetic character, but one can't help but wonder how far her stories go. Deep, deep down Jared is a romantic as well else he wouldn't have kept alive a fictional marriage with Maria just to spare his godmother's tender feelings.
This is an intricately woven story with a lot of turns; Maria somehow manages to maintain her romantic idealism without being naïve, while Jared finally becomes the knight she always knew he could be. For a sweet read with happy endings all around find yourself a copy of The Valentine's Day Ball.