Charlotte Haversham MacKinnon had been properly wed and bedded, but soon thereafter, abandoned. Her husband had left her, taking her dowry, leaving her nothing. Embarrassed and ashamed, Charlotte decides to go to her husband's ancestral home. If her husband isn't there, she will make a life for herself there. Once she arrives, however, she finds a nearly derelict castle, a surly staff and no money to make repairs. But Charlotte is determined, and she makes her own rules and her own future.
Five years later, after so many of her plans have come to fruition and Charlotte has begun to congratulate herself on a job well done, a man arrives at the castle. It is her husband. He looks so different, and acts so differently, that Charlotte thinks her memory must be faulty. But she was married such a short time, so it is hardly surprising that her long lost husband seems like a stranger. Now if she can just get rid of him and move on with her life.
Dixon MacKinnon has been away for ten long years, but he's glad to be back in Scotland. When he comes upon Balfurin, however, the castle where he grew up, he finds much has changed. For one thing, there are a large number of young women. For another, there have been some major structural changes. Furthermore, there is a lovely woman at the helm of this apparent girls' school who seems to be his cousin's wife. When Dixon appears at the door, however, the elderly retainer at the door mistakes Dixon for his cousin, the Earl of Marne, and suddenly he finds that everyone thinks he is George, husband of the lovely Charlotte.
Dixon doesn't take the time to correct the case of mistaken identity, and finds himself not only mired in George's life, but falling for George's wife. He doesn't know why he's come back to Balfurin, but decides that finding George is the least he can do for Charlotte after all his cousin has put her through. The problem is that he is distracted by Charlotte more than he'd like to be. And solving the ages old mystery of the castle's missing treasure is as good an excuse as any for staying nearby. But will he be able to bring himself to leave when he must give up Charlotte?
It didn't take me long to come to like Charlotte. She was strong, journeying to Scotland when she didn't quite know what else to do with her life, and trying to escape her overbearing parents. Charlotte has made something of herself, repairing Balfurin, starting a school, and making a success of her new endeavor. It's obvious that it hasn't been easy, but she's done it and is rightly proud of herself.
When Dixon arrives, she naturally is angry. She thinks he is her long lost husband George, and she has no idea where he's been for over five years, why he left her, what he's done with her dowry. But it doesn't take long for her to come to admire the man she thinks is George, and the fight within herself is well written. Dixon, too, is a good character, a man who has been away from home for many years, and one who is fighting his own demons. It was easy to see that he was looking for something to fill a hole in his life, but he doesn't quite know what it is he is looking for.
While some story lines with mistaken identities don't bother me, this one did for some reason. I think the fact that I liked both characters a lot made it hard for me to understand why Dixon doesn't tell Charlotte who he really is much sooner than he did. It also was a bit unbelievable that Charlotte can mistake Dixon for George. Though she hasn't seen him in five years, it seems she would have been able to tell the difference. I doubted that first cousins can look quite so much alike as to be mistaken for one another like that.
The mistaken identity plot line aside, I did enjoy this book, and found myself wondering how things would be resolved. What exactly was Dixon looking for when he came back to Scotland, and would he find it? What will happen to Charlotte when she finally discovers the truth? The characters of Matthew, Dixon's secretary, and Maisie, Charlotte's maid, were great, and their side story was very interesting, a nice compliment to the main plot. The characters were well drawn, there was humor as well as heart, and the story swept me along. What more could you ask for from good romance?!