At thirty-seven, Jack Raeburn was quite satisfied with his life. A small estate provides him with a modest income which allowes him to pursue the unsavory lifestyle that he so enjoys. Having two older brothers and a nephew, Jack doesn't have to worry about securing the succession of the Pemerton title, and he has cultivated one of the worst reputations, ensuring that no marriage minded mama would let her daughter anywhere near him. All that changes however, when tragedy unexpectedly strikes and Jack becomes the new Marquess of Pemerton. Inheriting a mountain of debt along with the title, Jack finds himself in the untenable position of not only having to secure an heir, but also having to marry for money. Having been ostracized by most of polite society for years, Jack is having difficulty with his search, until he receives help from an unlikely source.
Lady Mary Haviland had led a very sheltered life for the first twenty-six years of her life, but now that she no longer has those restrictions on her, Mary is determined to live life to its fullest. Having an unusual fascination with rakes, and believing that no man could be seriously interested in her, Mary can't help the urge to tease Jack when she spots him eyeing the seasons latest crop of debutants. Slyly offering comments on his choices and advice on others, what began as a light-hearted diversion develops into a wonderful friendship as Mary aids Jack in finding a bride. Mary has determined to never marry, so even though she finds Jack handsome and charming, she is completely immune to his attempts at seduction thinking he is just teasing her. Well, she is almost completely immune.
Jack has never met a woman quite like Mary, nor has he ever had a platonic friendship with a woman, and he finds himself more and more drawn to her candid nature. Mary believes herself to be very plain and thinks that no man could ever desire her except for her fortune, which she hides from all. Jack finds himself becoming more attracted to Mary, but he still needs to marry a fortune, when he discovers that Mary has that fortune he begins his seduction in earnest, and not only gains the funds he needs to repair his estates, but the one person that makes him whole.
I love stories where the plain, plump girl snares the catch of the season, but A Change of Heart is so much more than that. It is a heart-wrenching, emotionally uplifting story about the redemptive powers of love. Mary's back story is so emotional that it makes me cry each time I read it. Her father was physically and emotionally abusive and he imprisoned her in her room for nine years after she displeased him. The three years since his death has allowed Mary to blossom, yet she still suffers those scars, and she doesn't trust easily. You cringe at the abuse she had to endure from her father, yet at the same time you admire her strength of spirit for overcoming her past, but you can still see how fragile she really is. The final scene in the book still makes me cry.
Jack was an unrepentant rake who never apologizes for his past – you just gotta love him, . He was jilted when he was younger which caused him to lose faith in women, but with Mary it is restored. When the Big Misunderstanding occurs, the fragile trust that they had built is shattered and they both suffer deeply because of it, yet they are each stronger for it. Jack had a lot of flaws, but he was a wonderful hero.
Candice Hern's traditionals are becoming difficult to get your hands on, but if you can find them, they are well worth it. Ms. Hern knows the regency period and her writing makes you feel as if you are living the story right along with the characters. A Change of Heart is, in my opinion, one of her best books ever.