Jack Hamilton is in bed, alone, and suffering from a broken collar bone. In addition to the fact that it hurts, he is also quite frustrated to find that many of his planned activities must be cancelled, just at the beginning of hunting season. Unexpectedly, his distant cousin, with whom he has not spoken in 25 or years or so, unexpectedly arrives with his beautiful, unmarried and sassy daughter.
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Due to some unfortunate circumstances involving a man who thought he could dishonor for cash, rumors spread like wildflower for Cressida and her father in their previous town. They arrived at Lord Hamilton's during a snow storm and with no prior notice. Soon, conversations and sparks flew for Jack and Cressida, until he finds out about her previous, unearned reputation. Hurt and angry, frustrated at the very real feelings he was developing for her, he made an inappropriate offer for her to become his mistress.
There were several sweet moments, such as when Cressida helped Jack go through some paperwork and found the recipe for biscuits that his grandmother had made for him as a child, unfortunately, there were many more moments of insults and being ignored. In addition, Jack seemed to hold Cressida responsible for having almost been taken advantage of previously.
Fortunately, Jack comes to his senses when he realizes how crude and inappropriate his offer was, he attempts to make amends and apologizes for doing so. She finds it hard to forgive right away, so he begins a slow process of courting her, with the hope that she will both forgive and fall in love with him. He buys her a beautiful ivory necklace and even gets permission from her father to do so, so that it is not an inappropriate gift.
She intends to obtain work as a companion or governess; he is opposed to it and believes they should just stay with him. He thought that from the beginning of the book, but didn't make it clear, so in some way she sees it almost as an insult now. Unfortunately, he finds valuables from his home in a bag and he believes she was going to steal them. Truthfully, she was being set up for something that did not happen and never wanted to take anything, but worried for her father if lies were spread about her character in their new town as well.
When he finds out she was set-up, he goes to find and apologize to her. She is in the woods, hurt her ankle and believes he is only there to seduce hurt. They talk and get everything worked out and soon make love. That is not the end of the conflict, there are many of his associates who do not like her and she feels less than him, in station, class, etc.
Their love holds strong and they manage to work out what matters, while ignoring what doesn't and a lot more sex is had. As the novel ends, they seem to be insanely happy with a beautiful future ahead of them.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story was well-done, but I feel as if the author created extra angst when it was not needed. I just don't believe that in that time period, well-brought up daughters of ministers frequently got offers to become a mistress.
Best scene in story:
Cressida is helping Jack with some papers from his grandmother's estate and they find a buscuiot recipe she made for him as a child. Cressida immediately ran to create another copy of it, to protect it, and to ask the cook to make them. It was a nice look into her personality, especially because they were not really friends yet.
Opinion about the main character:
It was challenging to bond with Cressida because her personality changed so much, spunky, meek, virginal, passionate...it was just hard getting to know her as a character.