The day was as hot as the pond was inviting. It's not as if anyone in Little Huffington was going to happen upon a secluded vale on the Duke of Greycliffe's lands. And Venus Collingswood didn't want to get her shift all wet. It was the perfect setting in which to plan her lovely bookworm of a sister's betrothal to the mysterious new duke arriving seven days hence. If only she had a suitable accomplice.
Andrew Valentine, Duke of Greycliffe, never thought arriving at his own household a week early would cause so much trouble. The housekeeper thinks he's his own cousin. Actually, the chance to not be the duke for a while is a pleasant opportunity indeed. It might even help him interrogate the delectable little nymph he's discovered swimming in his pond--if he can manage to get a word in edgewise . . .
I have to say I pretty much laughed through this entire story. I'm glad I "met" the Duke and Duchess in Lord Ned's story (Bedding Lord Ned). Having seen how strong their love still is, it was fun to learn how it all began. From their meeting in the pond to the garden party this was lots of fun.
Venus is afflicted with a family of bookworms. Both her parents and her sister think nothing of getting completely lost in their studies. Venus is smart, too, but she's much more of a people person. She hates the idea that her beautiful sister could end up and old maid, so when she hears that the Duke and his cousin are coming she plans to introduce him to her sister. While doing her plotting she is drawn to the pond where she spent many happy hours and decides to take advantage of the solitude and go swimming. She's shocked to encounter an equally naked man who claims to be the duke's cousin. In spite of her innocence Venus has no problem looking him over and deciding she likes what she sees. He also makes her feel rather strange, but she likes it. Being a pretty forthright person she tells Drew about her plan and asks for his assistance. I really loved seeing all her planning and maneuvering. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body and I loved how what she did was supposed to make people happy. I liked the way that she went to Drew when she heard what those women said and really let him have it. It was really funny to see him try to get a word in edgewise as he tried to explain. I loved the ending and seeing how she is just what Drew needs.
Drew became the Duke at the age of thirteen. He is so sick of the way people treat him just because of his rank, and how no one seems to be interested in him for himself. When he is mistaken for his cousin by the housekeeper, he convinces Nigel to go along with it so he can have a break. Then, while taking a walk, he comes across Venus just as he's about to go for a swim. Their meeting is somewhat explosive and he is enchanted by her. But once he lies about who he is, he is stuck, because he doesn't want to admit his lie. When he and his cousin are pursued from London by two very determined women things really start to fall apart. I loved seeing Drew cope with her volatility and show her just how much she means to him, even in so short a time.
You know that a case of switching identities is going to have moments when you really wonder if it will all work out. I really understood Drew's desire to escape for a little while, but it sure got him in trouble with Venus. The scene at the garden party was both heartbreaking and funny.