This book was a complete delight – right up until the point where it descended into stupidity and farce. The premise: Mr Ethan Brundy is a Lancashire mill-owner, formerly in the work-house, now fabulously wealthy but still showing a strong accent and appalling dress sense. Lady Helen Radley is the sharp-tongued daughter of the impoverished Duke of Reddington that Brundy falls in love with across a crowded theatre. Arranged marriage ensues.
Brundy is a glorious character, impossible to dislike, quite impervious to the snubs of the ton. Helen is less admirable but she gradually comes to appreciate his good qualities. When he visits his mill in Manchester, she misses him and accompanies him on his next visit, finding herself impressed with his methods and the way his workers love him. There’s a degree of idealisation in the portrayal of so many well-scrubbed and happy workers, and Lady Helen’s transformation from shrew to loving wife is a little too rapid for plausibility, but the charm of the characters and the amusing ways they deal with their peculiar situation overcome any deficiencies at this point.
The main characters’ gradually growing rapport would make enough of a story, but then the author spoils it by throwing in some melodramatic business with a villain, a debt, a necklace and a great deal of implausible creeping about at night, ending with Brundy acting entirely out of character. I’d hoped he could come up with some clever way to deal with the villain but no. Great characters, beautifully written, but the ridiculous farce keeps it to three stars.