|Nothing new in Layton's latest Regency-set story about a marriage of convenience that grows into one of true love.
Lord Ian Sutcombe needs a wealthy bride to pay for his younger brother's medical bills and to redeem the debts his avaricious stepmother has run. After exploring several possibilities, he settles for Hannah Leeds, the daughter of a prosperous merchant and inventive manufacturer.
Hannah was hoping to marry for love, but her beloved betrayed her for a better-connected bride. Since she has nothing more to lose, she agrees to an arranged marriage. Her younger sisters will surely benefit from an aristocratic connection.
The marriage proceeds as planned. Ian helps Hannah holds forth against snobbish members of the ton. Hannah realizes that he is a kind, honorable man. Everything goes well — until the Other Man and a Scheming Relative put their heads together to drive them apart.
I liked both Ian and Hannah. They are far less flamboyant than most romance characters, but they both possess a distinctive and soft-spoken charm that is quite precious and rare. Theirs is neither a passionate nor a heart-wrenching relationship, but one that grows and solidifies with time and contact. There is something quite pleasing about this sweet, everyday attraction.
Unfortunately, little unexpected happens to maintain either the pacing of the book or the interest of this reader. The major twists, if one can call them that, are not only entirely derivative but also completely foreseeable: Hannah's first love returns and proves himself even more despicable when he aligns himself with Ian's stepmother. Ian does not fall into the predictable jealous tantrum, but he does not do very much else either.
In fact, even now, only a few days after I finished the book, I have a hard time remembering much of what transpired. This may be because more than once, I found my attention straying to shopping lists and unfinished household chores. Hardly a strong recommendation for a riveting read.
It is nice to see Layton return to the familiar ground of the traditional, soft-toned Regency and I am all for more of the kind. On one condition: spice them up with wit, plot twists or just plain old-fashioned action.