Ruined and on the run, Julia Prior is in desperate straits when she meets a gentleman with a shocking proposal. Certain he is close to death, William Hadfield, Lord Dereham, sees Julia as the perfect woman to care for his beloved estate when he is gone--if she will first become his wife....
Very good book with plenty of joy, sadness, humor, and heartache. Julia made the mistake of trusting a man who claimed to love her. After convincing her to elope with him, he ravished her and then told her he never intended to marry her. When she fought back she believed she had killed him and ran. When she encountered Will she overcame her fears to help him back to his home, seeing how ill he was. When he proposed a marriage of convenience to protect his estate until his cousin could be trained to handle it she agreed. Then he left, fully expecting to die soon, but knowing his lands would be cared for. Three years later he returned, unexpectedly healthy and ready to take back control of his lands and see if his marriage could become real.
I really liked both Julia and Will. Julia started out as rather naive as far as men were concerned. That is why she was duped by Jonathan into running away with him. In spite of being panicked when she fled after hitting him with the poker, she actually kept a pretty good head and managed to get herself far away from the scene of the crime. I liked the way she overcame her own fears to help Will when she found him on the bridge and helped him home. I really enjoyed her conversation with him about estate management, which she was familiar with thanks to her late father. When that knowledge led to Will's strange proposition she was desperate enough to take him up on it. When the story resumed three years later with his return and improved health, she had become used to being the one in charge. I really enjoyed seeing the way that she and Will had to learn how to compromise and work with each other. I loved seeing her stand up to him when he would try to leave her out of everything. There were some really fun scenes with the two of them as they worked together around the estate. Julia also discovered that there was a huge difference between her one encounter with Jonathan and her relationship with Will. His tenderness and care for her caused her feelings for him to grow even more. Her biggest problem was that she had never told him about her attack on Jonathan and she feared what his reaction would be. This secret was a huge obstacle to her happiness. I had a feeling from the beginning that the issue would play a big part and it did. I loved the way that the whole thing was resolved.
Will was a fantastic hero. At the time Julia met him, he was very ill and thought to be dying. His heir was still young and in no way ready to take over the management of the estate. Talking with Julia he discovers that she is very knowledgeable about the subject. He comes up with the idea of marrying her so that she can run the estate and train Henry in what to do. If he marries her, then leaves the country and doesn't stay in contact, it will take seven years for him to be declared dead, more than enough time to do what is needed. So they married and he left the next day. Three years later, he returned healthy, having been saved by a Spanish doctor. He is ready to take back control of his land, which he had missed dreadfully, and to see if it would be possible to continue his marriage. He did not expect to find that his lands had been so well cared for that he had barely been missed. He was intent on taking back control, and it took a few days for him to realize that to sideline Julia completely would devastate her. I loved seeing the way that he learned so much about her and listened when she told him that all she wanted was to be able to share the work with him. I loved seeing him accept her for who she was and appreciate her abilities. He also quickly came to enjoy their physical relationship. His biggest concern was that he could sense that she was hiding something from him. He has a real problem with anything resembling a lack of honesty because of the miserable way his parents had treated each other and him. Just when things are going well for them, her past comes calling, and he is blindsided by his feelings of betrayal. After saying some cruel things to her he finally comes to his senses, but then has to find her. I loved his final rescue of her and the way his feelings become clear to him.