Her name is on everyone’s lips…
When he left for America six years ago, the handsome Viscount Stonehurst never suspected that he would return home to England to find his lovely fiancée embroiled in the scandal of the decade. The woman he planned on making his wife has been kissing every man in London…except him!
But scandal doesn’t matter in search of the truth…
Engaged and then abandoned, Mirabella Wittingham is determined to find the man who drove her cousin to suicide, even if it means ruining her reputation and disgracing herself in the process…When her plans go awry, Mirabella has no choice but to turn to her long-lost fiancé for help. But can she trust the man who deserted her so many years ago, or is he destined to fail her yet again?
This is a fun historical romance from Sourcebooks that is a re-issue of a novel that was originally published in 2001. As is often the case the crisis in the story is caused by an infraction against the ironclad social rules that governed polite society in Regency England, when men could pretty much do whatever they chose, and women were considered tarnished, fallen, soiled, unmarriagable if caught in an innocent kiss, walked about in broad daylight without a chaperone, or allowed anyone of the male persuasion to glimpse their ankles. Sort of lopsided, eh? Well, our heroine is tired of waiting for an absentee fiancee--six years is a long time to wait for the man who agreed to marry her but has been long overdue in claiming his bride.
As in all really good stories, there are a couple of story themes in this novel. One is the question of whether Mirabella and her fiancee will ever marry, whether they will even remain engaged, and what would happen if the engagement would be called off. Second, there is the personal determination Mirabella has to find the man who has compromised her best friend and who walked away from her when she was pregnant and without support or family to stand by her. The issues in this book become critical when these two story lines collide--Lord Stonehurst turns up at a ball without informing Mirabella or her father that he has returned from America and it just so happens that he catches Mirabella in the arms of another unmarried gentleman. What Lord Stonehurst does not know is that she is trying to find a man with a prominent scar on his neck, one of the very few clues that her best friend has given in her journal to the identity to the man her friend calls Prince Charming. By kissing a man and running her finger inside his cravat during the kiss, she could feel the raised ridge of the scar. Unfortunately, Lord Stonehurst doesn't even want to hear that explanation.
This is such a delightful novel that brings in all the usual ingredients of Regency historicals yet all are merged together to make a fun story. It is not an unusual plot, but the characters that Ms Grey has created have the sense of being unique even in a social situation that forms the context of all Regency romance. Of course, Lord Stonehurst finds that his father has handled the family finances poorly so there is the need for money. Thus, he will have to find another fiancee who has money. Even though Mirabella is absolutely enchanting, is probably the first aristocratic woman he has responded to with anything more than respect, her indiscretions and her penchant for kissing gentlemen makes her unacceptable to him to be his future countess. Eventually, Mirabella has no alternative but to confess the reason for her all the kissing, thus involving Lord Stonehurst in the search for the man with the scar on his neck.
I liked Mirabella because she was proper in most aspects but not afraid to make her opinions known and to speak frankly about her issues and feelings. She also had an extraordinary sense of holding her own in difficult circumstances, a complete rejection of the usual weeping miss kind of response to upsetting news, and a woman whose loyalty to her father and to her friends did not evaporate under pressure.Lord Stonehurst was an unusual man in that he had the "pluck" to step outside London, outside English society even, go to America and work hard--manual labor--to build his own fortune instead of hoping for or depending on his family inheritance. Thus, even though he was prone to take the "normal" stance regarding Mirabella's unwise actions, there was a part of him that was willing to find another resolution to the dilemmas that faced them both. He was a man of kindness and sensitivity who was willing to allow Mirabella to break the news of her indiscretions to her father herself instead of marching in and acting the disappointed bridegroom.