The bride and groom cordially request your presence for a wedding at Millworth Manor. . .
Guests will include Jackson Quincy Graham Channing, New York City banker, and Lady Theodosia "Teddy" Winslow, wedding planner to the finest families in England.
Introductions shall be followed by light conversation, dancing, flirtation, arguing, reconciliation, and an impulsive kiss that both parties are quite certain they will never repeat.
Until they do.
A mutually beneficial fake engagement will be accompanied by all manner of very real complications, scandalous revelations, nefarious schemes, and one inescapable conclusion:
That true love--unlike the perfect wedding--is impossible to plan. . .
As is usually the case with a Victoria Alexander book, this was a fun story. Jackson and Teddy are very different people, but those differences balance each other well, if they will just allow it to happen.
Jackson has grown up in New York City with his mother and grandfather. He has become vice president of the family bank and is set to announce his engagement to the young lady who he has grown up with. He is content with his life. All that changes when his father shows up at his family home. Jack always thought his father was dead. His mother certainly hadn't told him otherwise. Not only is he alive, Jack's father hadn't known that Jack existed. Jack is equally stunned to discover that on his father's side of the family, he is the heir to a title and estate in England. Now he feels that his entire life has been a lie and he isn't sure who he is anymore. He does know that he wants to get to know his father, so he leaves his New York life behind and heads to England. He and Lucy have decided that their potential engagement will not occur as they are better friends than potential mates.
Teddy and her mother are good friends to the Channing family. Since the death of Teddy's father, they have made their way as the Victorian version of event planners. Teddy is running the wedding of Camille Channing when she meets a handsome and mysterious guest at the reception. Though they haven't been introduced, he asks her to dance. There is some heavy duty flirting going on between them, ending with a kiss that curls her toes, and still no idea who he is.
Finding out who he is pushes some buttons of Teddy's, who feels as though he lied to her by omission. She had been engaged to a man who through his lies had ended up being the ruin of her family, before he died. She knows she's overreacting, but can't seem to help it. Meanwhile, Jack felt like he and Teddy had made a real connection and he wants to pursue it.
I loved seeing Jack change from the sober banker in New York to the man who is pursuing the things he wants instead of what is expected of him. Being exposed to the somewhat zany Channing family gives him the motivation to transform who he is. It turns out that he has quite a sense of humor and no problem using it with Teddy. He also discovers that he has a bit of a protective streak when it comes to her, and steps in to rescue her from an unwanted proposal by claiming her for himself.
Teddy is very independent, and for the last several years has been using their event planning to pay off her father's debts. She has decided that marriage isn't for her, though she has yet to get that point across to her mother. She intends to take their "hobby" of event planning and turn it into an actual business. She feels a need to prove to herself that she can stand on her own feet and not depend on a man to take care of her.
The "engagement" between Jack and Teddy starts out as something that will give her time to get her plans in order, and give Jack time to make up his mind what he wants to do with his future. By spending time together, Teddy helps Jack get acclimated to English society. He discovers that the dreams he had when he was younger are still alive, and that now he has the opportunity to make them happen. He also wants Teddy to be part of that future, but he has to convince her.
Teddy is one very stubborn woman. She has her goal in her sights and nothing is going to distract her from it. The time she spends with Jack makes her realize that what she had felt for her former fiance was not truly love. But she's afraid that giving in to her feelings for Jack will cause her to lose the person she is finally becoming, so she continues to push him away. Walking away from everything he offers her tears her apart, but she feels it is necessary. I wanted to shake her for hurting Jack like that, but she does come through in the end, and both are stronger for the separation. I enjoyed seeing her chase him down and then have to do a bit of grovelling.
There is a bit of intrigue/conflict when part of Teddy's past rears its ugly head. Once again, her stubborn independence has her trying to deal with it on her own, but fortunately her friend Dee steps in a rats her out to Jack. Once again he gets to play the part of hero, but also shows his banker's abilities while doing it. I loved seeing Teddy's fascination with this side of Jack. Naturally, all ends up as it should.
As always in one of Victoria Alexander's books, the interactions among characters are fun. I loved Lucy, Jack's non-fiancee. Her snarky little comments during Jack's father's reappearance were really funny and to the point. She seems to have a much clearer picture of their relationship than Jack does, at least until he gets some distance between them. Her appearance again later in the book is just as much fun. I'm really looking forward to her story. I really enjoyed seeing the various members of the Channing family again. Their immediate acceptance of Jack was great, and their comments on how his appearance is just typical for their family made him feel a little better. His cousins' husbands have a great scene where they try to explain women, especially their women, to Jack. Of course, some of the best ones occur between Jack and Teddy. I loved seeing him call her on her attitude toward him, especially at the beginning. He loves her spirit and isn't shy about telling her so. I also liked seeing Teddy give Jack the occasional kick when he lets his insecurities get the better of him. I especially liked her bit when she saw him at the Explorer's Club. She does occasionally get wound up, and Jack has a unique way of calming her down.