by Jessica Benson
John Fitzwilliam, Lord Claremont, doesn't want to get married. It's true that he has a sort of … understanding … with his childhood friend Addie Winstead, but he's not ready to get married, and he is pretty sure that Addie isn't either. The thing is, Fitzwilliam's best friend Drew is in love with Addie's sister, and Drew says that Addie has refused at least two offers of marriage. Could this be because Addie knows that Fitzwilliam would do the right thing in the end? Drew convinces Fitzwilliam that he ought to mention to Addie that he has no intention of marrying in the near future. The girl should feel free to marry elsewhere, after all. Unfortunately for Fitzwilliam, thinking about what to say to Addie and actually saying something it are two completely different things. And when the time comes to speak to her, Fitzwilliam finds that he's rather fascinated with Addie for some strange, perplexing reason. Just what would Addie's gently smiling lips taste like, anyway?
Addie has been in love with Fitzwilliam for as long as she can remember. But knowing Fitzwilliam, he'll never willingly settle down with anyone, let alone Addie, until he's good and ready. And good and ready seems a long time away, judging from the way Fitzwilliam lives his bachelor life. Addie, her sister Justine and their aunt need money desperately, have since Addie's father died, and Addie has found a way to keep them in gowns and bonnets. It's not the most ladylike way of earning money, and Aunt Honoria hates what Addie is forced to do. Honoria would much rather Addie was honest with Fitzwilliam about where they stand financially, because of course Fitzwilliam would marry her then. But that is exactly what Addie doesn't want. She wouldn't be able to stomach being married to Fitzwilliam knowing that he didn't love her. But Addie finds it hard to resist the gleam in Fitzwilliam's eye as he leans toward her to kiss her….
Fitzwilliam is a great character, rather Heyer-like in that he is worldly, rich, and handsome, but has a good sense of humor and a sense of true honor. The opening scene with Drew and Fitzwilliam at breakfast is a great lead-in to the relationship between the two men and the ways things will fall out in the rest of the story.
Addie is a fun heroine, with her strong sense of honor and her determination. She knows what she has to do in order to take care of her family, and she will do it. She loves Fitzwilliam, and it would be easy to just tell him of their troubles and let him take care of things, but if she is ever to have him, that's not the way she wants it to come about.
This is a light-hearted story, fun, but with some lovely tender moments, too. Fitzwilliam is rather befuddled when he realizes he is attracted to Addie, and Addie probably never realizes that her newfound independence makes her very attractive indeed! There is a nice banter between them that shows their long-standing affection. The other characters are fun as well, such as the enamoured couple of Justine and Drew, and the harumphing Aunt Honoria. The cast gets larger as the book goes on, but the characters all seem to serve their purpose. The ending was sweet and funny, but one that you wished would go on a bit longer, with a more lengthy conversation between Addie and Fitzwilliam. This is a fun and quick read, and will make you smile. As an aside, there is a nice mention of the hero and heroine of another Benson novel, which made me chuckle when I read it. Give this a try.
“They had been destined for marriage since childhood, but neither of them wants to marry the other. Or do they?”
January 2006, 285 pages
(This reissue was originally published in 2001)
John Fitzwilliam and Addie Winstead were engaged to one another by their fathers, long before the pair had anything to say about the matter. Yet over the years, Addie has carried a torch for the seductive prizefighter, whose amorous escapades demanded she hide her feelings and her hopes and focus on earning an income for her household by secretly writing a popular boxing column in the London Post. Ever the professional, Addie must report in detail even her beloved's most embarrassing defeat. And despite himself, perhaps it was the knock he took the head, or more likely, an arrow to his heart, Fitz suddenly feels a delicious new longing for lovely Addie. But when a passionate kiss turns into scandal, will he be forced to defend Addie's honor in the ring? Worse, will Addie have no choice but to deny her greatest love in order to save him?