Scarlet Ohara and Rhett Butler in early 19th century England. This time we meet Scarlet in the guise of one Whitney Stone, a fifteen year old girl without quite enough love in her life making a fool of herself and her father by chasing after a man who has no interest in her. Fed up, Whitney's father finally decides to ship her off to Paris for a few years, where he hopes her Aunt and Uncle will be able to make a lady out of her, and then marry her off.
To the surprise of everyone, Whitney is a social success in Paris, where society is less restrictive. She is charming, intelligent, and possessed of an unusually generous spirit. Her true allure, however, is that she seems to be playing hard to get. Even after three years, all Whitney really wants is to get back home to her father (who will never lover her for herself) and to the unworthy Paul Severin.
And then it looks like her dream is becoming a reality. She has grown up and knows it, and her father wants her home. What she doesn't know is that Rhett Butler (otherwise known as Clayton Westmoreland) has "bought" her! Westmoreland met Whitney at a masquerade and decided he had to have her. He won't admit to himself that he is actually in love with her, but he wants her badly enough that he will marry her to have her. But...
He wants her to love him. So he arranges a "traditional" courtship in Whitney's home town. He is the handsome and mysterious neighbor renting out a nearby cottage. Whitney has no idea that he is the ill-reputed Duke of Claymore and that her bankrupt father has traded her to him. Just wait until she finds out!
This hefty romance is intensely, emotionally satisfying. Two strong, beautiful people coming together - with a lot of trouble - but coming together nonetheless. There are some very funny moments in this book, but they are always touching. Clayton's elaborate deception does not lead, as it does in other books, to a light-hearted story. Both characters take the situation and each other very seriously. Sometimes the story will break your heart. The love scenes are sweet and sexy and tender, but never graphic. As in all of Judith McNaughts books, convenient misuderstandings play too large a part, but this novel is so rewarding on an emotional level that you just don't care.
Read it twice. At least.