Lord Wyndham a celebrated general has been traumatized by battle, and he has decided to retire from public life. He moves to his family’s ancestral home in rural England and begins to rehabilitate the estate. He wants to marry, have a family, and live in the country, far away from the social life of London. He is searching for a wife who will share the life that he intends.
To find a wife, he has an extended house party at his estate. Guests come from London for the duration. Girls who live nearby appear each morning and stay until dinner ends each evening. Each girl attempts to capture his attention and impress on him her qualifications to be his wife. Annabelle Munson lives at Munson House, a neighboring estate, and she desperately wants to marry him. She does not plan to share his rural life, however. She intends for them to live London.
The Duke of Oldbury, a friend of Lord Wyndham’s arrives. He sees that Annabelle is not fit to be his friend’s wife, and he steps in to prevent any marriage between the two.
I find it disconcerting when a book’s main character is not a likable person. As a result, I tried very hard to like Anabelle. When she behaved inappropriately, I tried to find an explanation. When she was selfish, I tried to excuse it. When she told a lie, I tied to rationalize the untruth. Ultimately, though, I realized that Annabelle is not a nice person, and the Duke is quite correct in his conclusion about her suitability to be Lord Wyndham’s wife.
Central to the story is the idea that we do not always know what it is that will truly make us happy. Sometimes what we think we want will, in truth, make us desperately unhappy, and those things that we want to avoid are exactly what will make our lives complete. So the characters in the book discover.
The book’s descriptions, − of the ladies’ dresses, the countryside, the characters’ feelings, and, especially, the characters voices and emotions− are all vivid and are a particular strength of the book. While some aspects of the plot are rather improbable, this book is extremely well-written, and the reader finds it quite easy to suspend any doubts.
I was rather surprised, given the tone of the book to find some rather serious sexual content. The descriptions, like the others, are extremely detailed. I routinely review romance novels, and I found these scenes to be more explicit than those I have seen in quite some time. On the other hand, they flowed from the story, rather than being imposed on it, and I did not find them to be objectionable.
The descriptions, an entertaining story, and a rather unexpected conclusion result in a very enjoyable book.