Since the day her oldest sister entered society, Lady Elizabeth, the Earl of Saunton’s sister, imagined the pleasures of her first London Season, during which she expected to meet her future husband. Unfortunately, when she is old enough to make her debut, no member of her immediate family is available to chaperone her in London, so she accepts her Great-Aunt Augusta’s offer to bring her out in Cheltenham.
Elizabeth looks forward to living at Augusta’s grand house near the lively, popular town where people drink mineral water at pump houses and enjoy the social life. Determined to be the perfect debutante, she cannot imagine creating a scandal, so it is fortunate that she cannot foresee the future. Modest, loving and giving Elizabeth is blessed with beauty and a fortune, which attracts suitors. It would not be surprising if her ‘head is turned’ by admirers but she is not a flirt.
From the moment she sees Mr Yates she sets her heart on him. At the same time, she is not attracted to her brother’s friend with an exotic background, and amber eyes like a tiger’s which unnerve her. Both gentlemen made their fortunes when they served in the East India Company, but will they lead her into trouble, be right for Elizabeth and will one of them be the perfect match for her?
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Engaging heroine, darkly passionate hero
Elizabeth, the heroine of this historical romance, matches the description of the novel's title. Loving and giving, she is excited to take part in her first season in Cheltenham. Determined and outspoken, aware of the world outside her own privileged background, she is also keen on social justice and the rights of others.
She is however only eighteen and still rather shielded from the word's vices. Innocent and passionate, she hope to be courted by the handsome, smoothly charming Geoffrey Yates, although her family appear to prefer Sir Victor, a former soldier, recently returned from India and of mixed Indian-Anglo heritage.
Sir Victor makes a compelling, darkly passionate and original protagonist, one with a delightful relationship with his interesting grandfather and a strongly protective nature, as shown in his dealings with the kidnapped child Mary-Jane and Elizabeth herself. In her way, Elizabeth is his foil, ardent and truly brave, kind and sensitive.
There are some well-loved tropes in this novel - the demanding, elderly chaperone, the insidious fortune hunters, the delights and perils of the social season. There is also a different, refreshing look at wider issues - anti-Catholic prejudice, gipsies, Indian nabobs, Hindu beliefs and a mixed-race hero.
A sweet romance with an exciting climax and a beautiful ending.