Something happened to me on the way to this review. Midway through the book, I had to put it down and begin my review. It was evoking such a negative reaction; I decided to take a preemptive strike and size up my thoughts immediately. That’s got to be a sign of an amazing writer, right?! Our hero of the book, Harry Rutledge, does something so unforgivable to his intended bride, Poppy Hathaway; I didn’t think it was possible for her to forgive him. As a matter of fact, Poppy tells him as much.
The third installment of the fantastic Hathaway series is dedicated to Poppy. At 23 years old and with three failed London Seasons, Poppy is feeling hopeless. Belonging to a family who came into a title, not born of blue blood, the Hathaway’s at the very heart are a comical, irreverent bunch who carries themselves as they deem appropriate. Cognizant of the English ton’s etiquette, the Hathaway’s have simply never sought formal approval and it’s their only brother’s inheritance of a “lordship” that garners them proper attention.
Poppy loves her family dearly and recognizes her own inherited eccentricities that might be responsible for her lack of suitors, such as chattering incessantly (especially if it’s intellectual, as its considered frowned upon. WHAT?!), speaking about little known Greek philosophers and astronomers, or even subscribing to the unique notion of marrying for love. Yes, Poppy just wants to settle down and lead a simple life. All she’s ever truly wanted is a marriage to mirror that of her parents’. Can Harry, the New York-bred hotelier, provide her with all that she wants? Based on his improvised interference in Poppy’s love life, he’s clearly about acquisitions and control.
Dodger, Poppy’s younger sister, Beatrix’s pet ferret, has made off with a love letter from Michael Bayning, Poppy’s secret suitor, and she is determined to recover it for its content would reveal intimacies better kept discreet. I must say that this ferret has the most affable personality! He is a wily thing and adds immense delight to every scene he’s in. Sure, he doesn’t speak, but Lisa Kleypas gives such life to this animal -- it’s just a testament of her wonderful writing. Back to the story…Dodger trespasses into one of the hotel’s offices reserved for staff only, but Poppy sneaks in undetected (the letter could be her undoing!). On the verge of reaching Dodger behind a low-end desk, Poppy inadvertently fits herself into a secret wall revealing an even more secret hallway. Quietly but firmly calling out to Dodger, footsteps approach her from behind and a hand closes over her mouth! Much to her fright (but tantalized, if she’s to be honest), Poppy meets the dashing Harry Rutledge, owner of the hotel. Distracted by Harry’s intelligence and charm, Poppy realizes that without a chaperone to oversee any impropriety, if discovered, they could both be facing a compromise worthy of marriage. Hey….now why didn’t Harry think of that?! That would be awfully heavy-handed, don’t you think? Harry does worse!
Putting Poppy at ease with a promise to return her sensitive letter, Harry not only retrieves the correspondence, but in an effort to keep Poppy for HIMSELF, Harry brings it to Michael’s father’s attention, who happens to be so vainglorious in his own sense of privilege, he wouldn’t ever consider granting blessing to such a union! I know, I know: Who the hell does Harry Rutledge think he is? How dare he meddle in this love affair? Now you see why this made me so furious?
Unbeknownst to Michael (and Poppy) that Harry’s involvement undermined his intention to declare himself ready to marry Poppy, Michael has no choice but to formally renounce his pursuit of Poppy and breaks her heart upon the reveal. This is where it became dubious. Poppy’s elder sister, Amelia (who is the cornerstone heroine in the series, happily married to the swoon-worthy Cam Rohan!), suggests thwarting the elder Bayning’s refusal by eloping to Gretna Green. How ingenious and utterly supportive, right?! Then why doesn’t Michael abscond with his beloved Poppy? Because Michael would be disinherited, penniless and without all that is due him as the only heir to his father’s fortune. Boo on Michael, I hear you!!!
Motivated by her family’s support to attend the last ball of the season and demonstrate her grace despite the broken engagement, Poppy is thrown surreptitiously into the arms of Harry, the very man who designed to make Poppy his very own. But HEA isn’t easily achieved when confessions are concealed and hard truths are exposed. Will Harry reveal his involvement that resulted in Poppy’s broken heart? Does Poppy recognize Michael’s unwillingness to sacrifice his wealth for love? How much can love endure before it’s considered true?
I was right to reserve final judgment of our hero because I knew there was a method to his madness. The evolution of Harry’s character is what makes this book so swoon-worthy. To read how willing the normally composed Harry is to earn his true love, I think the better man won.
Hoping my swoon was contagious,