Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
Miss Titania "Tansy" Danforth is all alone in the world. Her beloved brother was a soldier who died in the war of 1812, and her parents died in a carriage accident. Now she's had to leave the home she knew in New York to travel back to England, where she hasn't lived since she was a little girl. Her father's will states that she'll not have her fortune released until she marries a man approved by her new guardian, her father's cousin, the fearsome Duke of Falconbridge. Preferably someone rich in his own right and suitably titled. Tansy knows she's very beautiful and wields her charm like a weapon. She's determined that every man in Sussex will fall at her feet, but the one man who truly takes her own breath away, seems to be completely unmoved by her.
Ian Eversea has never really been able to settle down after the war. He's plagued by nightmares and restlessness and hopes that maybe exploring the world will solve some of his worries. He has about a month left until he leaves for his great journey when Tansy Danforth arrives in Pennyroyal Green, as his brother-in-law, Falconbridge's ward. A woman Falconbridge sees fit to warn Ian to stay specifically away from, or there may be dire consequences. Well aware of his checkered past where Falconbridge is concerned (see What I Did for a Duke, number 15 in my top romances of all time), Ian promises to leave the girl alone. It's not like she needs any more male attention, with most of the single, and quite a few of the married, men of the region making complete fools of themselves for a flattering glance and a kind word from the girl. Is Ian the only one who notices how rehearsed and forced Tansy's charm and flattery is? What is the woman really up to?
Tansy is achingly lonely, and knows that her chief asset is her stunning looks. She's deeply vulnerable and insecure, and in making the men around her fawn over her charm and beauty, she at least gets to be the centre of attention at social gatherings. She's an orphan, not even allowed to choose her own husband, lest she risk losing her fortune if she picks the wrong man. Her childhood home in Sussex is for sale, she's had to leave the only home she knows in America. Her new guardian is terrifying and has a scary reputation, yet is clearly disgustingly happy with his own young wife. When the Everseas, who have so kindly taken her in, all clam up about the rascal brother Ian, she becomes desperately curious, and when they finally meet, he makes her go clumsy, tongue-tied and flustered, pretty much the way the majority of men act around her, in fact. As he displays so little interest in her, she's all the more determined to find a way to charm him.
Ian is a rogue and a ladies' man, quite happy to stay unattached. He never makes women promises or feels the need to secure their affection with gifts. The war scarred him, both physically and emotionally and he's just biding his time until he can set off on his round the world journey. Accidentally assigned the room next to Tansy's, he's able to observe her, without her seeing him, on her balcony at night, and he sees a very different woman from the one most of the world is witness to. He's quite happy to respect Falconbridge's wishes and stay away from the flirt, until her ruthless charm offencive threatens to hurt his beloved sister. He calls Tansy on her recklessness and her studied flirtations, only to discover that she sees right through his defencive behaviour too.
Julie Anne Long is quite happy to let the reader believe, as Ian and several others around him do, that Tansy is a vain and shallow flirt with nothing on her mind but turning men's heads. She only gradually reveals Tansy's loneliness, the suffering she's gone through, and her knowledge that her parents always preferred her brother to her. For more than half of the book, I really wasn't sure what I though of her, or if she had much of a personality at all. It seemed that Tansy's main character trait was that she was stunningly gorgeous, which in the grand scheme of things didn't seem all that impressive. Yet at the reader, along with Ian, gets to know Tansy, it's clear that she is, as I've mentioned, lonely, quite insecure, adrift in a new country and desperately looking for love, security and a home she can call her own.
Another thing I loved in this book was the return of the Duke of Falconbridge, and his young wife Genevieve, from What I Did for a Duke. Despite there being a nearly twenty year age difference between the two, they are among my favourite couples in romance, and seeing them again, some time after their HEA has been established was great fun. I loved that although happily married, the duke is still seen as stern, scary and generally, as Mrs. Julien put it, "magnificently disagreeable". Only after several nerve wracking interviews with him does Tansy discover that the man may in fact have a wicked sense of humour and that there are good reasons why he and her father were so close.
I don't really want to spoil anything regarding Ian's history with Falconbridge, and you certainly don't need to have read any of Long's earlier romances to enjoy this one. However, it is an absolutely amazing book, so you may want to consider reading it before picking up this one, just because it will give you a complete picture of the complicated family relationships here, and show just how far Ian has developed as a character over time.
There is also a minor subplot involving Ian's sister, Olivia Eversea, which keeps running throughout Long's Pennyroyal Green books. One part in a star-crossed romance with Lyon Redmond (the other prominent family in the little village), the last few books seem to suggest that she may be moving on with her life. As Long herself has said that Olivia and Lyon's story will be the last one she tells, I'm going to be interested in seeing how far this develops before that book comes out.