Series: Gentleman's Club
Author: Patricia Waddell
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: June 1, 2004
LOVE HAS ITS REASONS
When William Fitch Minstead, the sixth Earl of Ackerman, agrees to a private audience with a lovely stranger, he's rewarded with the fateful news that he is the father of a little girl. After the death of her friend Elizabeth Bradstreet, Miss Hilary Compton became Lizzie's guardian. It is clear that Miss Compton thinks Fitch has neglected a child he never knew existed and she intends to right that wrong. Captivated by her charm and wit, the earl proposes a solution: a marriage of convenience.
WHICH REASON DOES NOT KNOW
Though she is only the daughter of a country squire, Hilary is independent to a fault--not the sort to submit to the whims of a handsome earl with a rakish reputation, even if Fitch insists that his service during the brutal Crimean War left him a changed man.
Her decision would be so much easier were he the seducing scoundrel she had expected. Perhaps the arrangement he suggests is for the best--if she can keep herself from falling in love.
William Fitch Minstead, the sixth Earl of Ackerman, receives shocking news that before going off to war he sired a daughter. To make matters worse, the person who's delivered the news, Miss Hilary Compton, thinks him a philandering scoundrel who has neglected the child—even though he never knew she existed, and she, of course, demands he takes responsibility.
Before determining what is to be done (and if the girl really is a Minstead), Fitch decides to travel to Nottingham and meet the tyke. One look at little Lizzie confirms his parentage and Fitch is determined to right the wrong he's unknowingly committed, but to Hilary's great surprise and Lizzie's delight, he proposes a surprising arrangement: he and Hilary would get married so Fitch can legaly adopt his daughter without having her suffer the ramifications of being a bastard.
Of course, the man makes it clear this would be a little more than the usual marriage of convenience. He expects Hilary to be his wife in every way...heir included.
This is another HR that veered straight off the usual (template) path. Yes, the premise is the same—man meets woman, they fall in love, they live happily ever after...But this book has a love-child thrown into the mix. Although little Lizzie is utterly adorable, as all the book tykes should be, it does seem the author wrote her into the book only to make the lead couple meet...and to spill the big secret in the end, providing the required HEA.
Fitch is the least rakish of the four Duke of Morland's protegees, harboring a difficult past shaped by the Crimea War and its consequences. He's "content" with spending his nights drinking himself to oblivion, trying to bury the memories that plague him. He was prepared to do the same even after the marriage, but he didn't count with the fact his wife would be such a nosy little creature. Of course it didn't even cross his mind to tell her anything about the war or why he locks himself in his library to brood.
This "dark secret" adds depth to the story and to the two main characters. And it's because of this silent war between Fitch and Hilary, where he's adamant to push her away and she equally determined to uncover the cause of his brooding, the chasm it draws between them almost destroying their trust and marriage, that makes this story so much more realistic than your average romance book.