Published in the anthology It happened one season, published March 2011. With the authors Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandra, Candice Hern. But I am not going to read those stories now, so this is just a review of the Stephanie Laurens story.
We asked our readers what story they would most like to see from four bestselling authors. They responded . . . A handsome hero returns from war, battle-scarred and world-weary. But family duty calls and he must find a bride. A young lady facing yet another season without a suitor never expects to find herself the object of his affections.
Sebastian Montgomery Trantor is a second son, and content with his place in life. During the Napoleon war he was a spy, some one good in breaking codes, and slipping behind enemy lines to decipher their secret messages. And now he is back home in England, busy with his ancient texts, translating old manuscripts. But his life is turned around when his brother visits. As it happens, he just became the father of his 5th daughter. He has given up hope for a son, and Sebastian is still his heir for the title and the estate. So now it is up to Sebastian to marry and beget a son, as they have a duty towards their tenants, and the family members dependent on the income from the estate. If heaven forbids, the estate would be inherited by their cousin, Mad Freddy, it would be a disaster for everyone. And so Sebastian finds himself agreeing. He has independent means, as he is a good investor of money, and has his own estate. He can certainly support a bride. And so, when the London Season starts, he finds himself scouting the ballrooms and gatherings for his bride. But none of those young misses will do, he wants a woman with whom he can converse, whose intellect will match his own. So hiding out in the library, sounds like a good plan. Until his rest is disturbed by a woman, who is riffling to their hosts’ desk, searching for evidence of blackmail! Sebastian decides to give her a hand, he is extremely intrigued by this young lady, who is talking to herself. And with everything he learns about her, in that short time, he is more attracted to her. She is not as young as the girls he has met so far, and that suits him just fine. So when they are found together in the library, he just kisses her and announces their engagement! Miss Tabitha Makepeace is appalled, she doesn’t even know him! And he certainly doesn’t know who she is, or he would never have done that! But he reassures her that they can end the engagement anytime she wants, and this way, he has the opportunity to help her find the black mailer, and the evidence to put a stop to it. And so their courtship begins, which is socially much more demanding than they both could have guessed. Sebastian sure doesn’t wish to end the engagement though, he wants to make it real, and have Tabitha as his bride. He is certain they are well suited together. And Tabitha finds herself relying on Sebastian more and more, she who has always been so independent, is liking that! At age 26, she never thought to experience a suitor like Sebastian.
I absolutely adored this little story. The intrigue of finding the bad guy, the person who is black mailing at least four of her recently engaged girlfriends, adds a nice plot the to story. As usual in Stephanie Laurens books, the hero knows kind of immediately that he has found the woman he wants to marry, and now has to convince her of the fact. I loved that Tabitha (lovely name!) is totally clueless to that. She is really bothered by the fact that they are deceiving his family and the ton (her family he has told the truth, but also that he wants to make it a real engagement). And when they suddenly have to spend the night together, she is to one who seduces him, instead of the hero doing the work. Most of her heroes really don’t want to talk about their feelings, shouldn’t their actions speak louder than words? But Sebastian has no problem with that at all.
So, not a standard Stephanie Laurence recipe book, but a nice story, with two main characters I liked a lot. The plot itself was very well done, and enjoyable. And the ending, very sweet. I do recommend this story.