This is a wonderful and wonderfully complex story. The only problem with this book is that the publisher -- Harlequin -- chose to position it as a 'Regency Romance'. It most certainly is not that at all. Not even very close, in fact, which has probably hurt the book more than helped it. Another consideration is that this new paperback release is a reprint of a book first published in 1995. Standards have changed considerably in the years since then. The story takes place over the course of a year, but the romance, in my opinion, is almost incidental to the plot. It is more the story of a young woman raised to be something that most women of the time were not allowed to be, and what happens to her and those all around her when she meets a man who has thrown over everything he was raised to be, in favor of becoming his own man, in another country. There is a love story in here, to be sure, but I honestly don't believe it's the major element of the plot which is what really determines if a book is a romance or fiction. As improbable as it might seem to some readers, there are those couples who, within a short time of their initial meeting, cannot resist the force of their attraction to each other, and can easily consider the world well-lost for love, or lust, if you will. Many of these couples will, in time, convert that electricity into something lasting; many, however, burn out, reducing each other to cinders in the process. At a time in history when women were considered an adornment to their husbands, Anastasia Blanchard was born to a bank owned outright by her father. As his only child, and one who early on showed all the necessary signs of being exactly the type of heir he wanted, except for her sex, of course, he simply ignored that part of her, and proceeded to teach her everything he knew about banking. Matthew Falconer, on the other hand, was the third son to an Earl, and without a mother to watch out for him, quickly became the target of his older brother. Matt left England, taking a small inheritance left him by his mother, and established himself in America. It made him a better man than ever the English system could have done. Unfortunately, the second son died in an accident, leaving Matt as heir apparent, a position he despised with every ounce of his large frame. In spite of his feelings about the title and all that went with it, when the older brother also died, Matt took himself back to England, to investigate an inheritance from an elderly aunt, who had loved him only for himself. During a blizzard, Stacy and her travelling companions are forced to seek shelter at the ramshackle, run-down Pontisford Hall--Matt's legacy. Sparks are struck on their first meeting, and never let up until the last page. I enjoyed every page of this book, for its picture of a woman's non-world in Regency England, as well as the way in which families encircle and protect their own--even those hardly worth protecting, even long after the death of a wort
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