Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's the type of girl you don't notice until the second -- or third -- look, but there's something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she's the one.
Iris Smythe-Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.
Very good book, filled with Julia Quinn's signature humor. Sir Richard has come to London, desperate to find a bride and marry her quickly. He spots Iris at her family's musicale and is immediately drawn to her. She seems to be good at disappearing into the background, but he sees something else. He arranges an introduction (a pretty funny scene itself) and decides that she's the one he wants. Iris had noticed him staring at her during the musicale and doesn't understand why. When he is introduced to her, his intensity makes her suspicious, as does his focused attention over the next few days.
We know from the start that Richard has a reason he needs to marry quickly, but we don't know what it is. Iris isn't exactly what he had in mind when he started his search, but once he met her he couldn't accept anyone else. He likes her intelligence, her obvious love for her family, though he didn't expect the zing of attraction. He'd like to be able to take the time to court her properly, but he's in a bit of a time crunch. Though he's not proud of it, he's going to have to do something to force a quick marriage.
Iris is a very practical young woman who is also very self aware. She knows she isn't beautiful, doesn't have a big dowry to tempt suitors, and tends to be rather sarcastic in her wit. Richard's attentions are a surprise, though she does enjoy them. Though he gives the impression that he is falling for her, she senses that there is more to it than that. When his apparently impulsive proposal of marriage places her in a compromising situation, she's almost sure of it. She would have said yes anyway, but now she wonders what he's hiding.
The interactions between them once they were married were quite interesting. Both had discovered that there was a very strong attraction between them. Though nervous about it, Iris was rather looking forward to their wedding night, and was confused and hurt when Richard didn't appear. Over the next few days of their journey to Yorkshire it's obvious to the reader that he is really attracted to her but fighting it. Iris is increasingly confused, hurt and angered by his behavior. Richard sees the effect he is having on her and feels guilty, but is intent on his purpose.
Once they arrive at his home, they are given the chance to get to know each other better. Richard sees how wonderful she is with the people on his estate and how well she fits into his life and his guilty feelings continue to grow. He knows he needs to tell Iris the truth behind their marriage, but he can't figure out how. Once his sisters arrive back home from a visit to their aunt's, everything comes out, and Iris's reaction is worse than he feared. Iris had begun to have hope that things were progressing properly in her marriage until she discovered Richard's reason for marrying her. The truth was devastating to her, as she had fallen in love with him. She had to decide if she was going to go along with his plan, or stand up for what she believes in.
I felt a little bit sorry for Richard. He was doing what he thought best for his sisters, even though none of the people involved agreed. He wasn't listening to what his oldest sister really wanted to do. He was falling hard for Iris, but because of his plans he couldn't follow through on what he really wanted. Iris was devastated by what she saw as Richard's betrayal, but because she loved him was eventually willing to help. But she was also a keen observer of people, and she soon figured out the truth behind the problem. I loved seeing her put her mind to fixing it in a way that made it possible for all the parties to end up happy. I enjoyed the epilogue and seeing where they were a few years down the road.