On the eve of the London Season, Jane Chance is about to make her entrance into high society. And after a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane intends to make a good, safe, sensible marriage. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog.
Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable--a former spy, now in disguise, he's wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane Chance for his own.
If that means blazing his way into London society, in whatever guise suits him, that's what he'll do. Jane knows she shouldn't fall in love with this unreliable, if devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined--and he's a man accustomed to getting what he wants.
Very good book. This is the third in the series of books about the four Chance sisters, only two of whom are actually related. The other two are sisters of the heart, brought together by circumstances and bonded by what they've been through. Abby's story, The Autumn Bride, and Damaris's story, The Winter Bride, tell the beginnings of their friendship.
As this book opens, eighteen year old Jane is preparing for her come-out. She's excited about the parties and balls, remembering the stories that her mother used to tell. Her sisters tell her that with her beauty it won't take long for some handsome young man to fall in love with her and her love him right back. But that isn't what Jane is looking for. She saw that love is what got her parents into trouble, leading to the difficult childhood she and Abby had. Jane wants to find a good man with enough money and a home to give a secure life to her and any future children. She is certain that love will follow. So when a wealthy man, looking for a beautiful wife to add to his "collection" proposes, she accepts. But her road to the future isn't going to be as easy as she thinks. When she rushes to the rescue of a dog who is being tortured by some ruffians, she is in turn rescued by a tall, dark and handsome gypsy.
But Zachary Black isn't really the gypsy he claims to be. The son of an earl, he left home at sixteen to escape his abusive father, helping his stepmother to escape also. Since then, he has travelled the world, spending the last eight years working as a spy for the Crown. He has just returned to England with some vital information, only to discover that his father has died and he's the new Earl. But because he's been gone for so long, his greedy cousin is trying to have him declared dead so that he can have the estates. Zachary is ready to reclaim his name and lands, until he finds out that he's also wanted for the murder of that same stepmother. He's told by a friend to lay low until the stepmother can be found, but Zachary is drawn to the lovely young woman he rescued.
I really enjoyed the development of their romance. There is an instant connection between them. Jane is aware that she should not be spending time with him, but she is fascinated by the stories of his travels. Zachary is entranced, not just by Jane's beauty, but also her kindness and compassion. Their meetings as Jane is walking the dog take place under the watchful eye of a footman, so there is no opportunity for hanky panky. Instead they spend the time talking and getting to know each other. Jane desperately tries to resist the feelings that are growing for him, knowing that he can't give her the security she craves. Zachary falls deeper under Jane's spell, even knowing that she belongs to someone else. He becomes more determined to clear his name so that he can pursue her himself. Jane remains stubbornly attached to her plans, until Zachary's arrest makes her realize the truth of her feelings. I loved seeing her come to his rescue rather than the other way around, even though it could end badly if she isn't successful. The ending is fantastic, with a couple of unexpected twists.
Both Jane and Zachary go through some significant changes. Jane has spent so long denying the importance of love in a marriage, that it takes a while for her to accept her feelings for Zachary. I loved watching her deal with the differences between her fiancé and Zachary. Eventually she sees that marriage with a man who sees her as just another beautiful object for her collect can't compare to one with true love. Zachary starts out the book as a charming rogue, but under Jane's influence grows into a sense of responsibility for his land and his people.
The secondary characters all add a sense of depth to the story. Lady Beatrice continues to be a supporter as well as something of an agitator. I loved Zachary's friend, Gil. He was in Zachary's corner all the way, and seeing his reactions to Zachary's behavior made me laugh. Lord Cambury, Jane's fiancé, was a man that was easy to dislike. He looked at her as more of an object for his collection than a woman, and his treatment of her later in the story made that clear. I wanted to shake Jane for saying yes to him in the first place. I loved what she said to him when she broke things off. She was kind, but firm, and refused to be made to feel bad. The other sisters, Abby, Damaris and Daisy all have their opinions on what is best for Jane. I especially enjoyed Daisy's comments on what she believes is happening to Jane. She's also quite vocal on her own plans and expectations for herself. I'm looking forward to reading her story.