Having never left Upper Barrington in her twenty years, orphan Miss Emma Hastings is overjoyed when the uncle she’s never met invites her to come live with him in London. Everything about living in the Capital lures her. She doesn’t even mind sharing her seat in the mail coach with a gargantuan man whose belly rests on his lap. Even when her uncle fails to meet her at the posting inn in London, she’s too exhilarated over the city’s sights and sounds to be worried. After many hours pass and her uncle does not collect her, she determines to lug her trunk behind her as she struggles through London’s streets at night to find her uncle’s home.
Spurned by his mistress and vowing to never love again, Adam Birmingham, whose family is the richest in Britain, decides to get very drunk. As he’s staggering home, he takes pity on a very small young lady who’s lugging a very large trunk behind her. In the rain. Her destination is the home of his next-door neighbor, but no one answers the bell. Adam is compelled to ask the young woman to spend the night at his home. Promptly after showing her the chamber in which she’ll sleep, Adam passes out on her chaise. It’s not until the following morning he remembers that the lady’s uncle has died.
When Adam learns that Emma cannot return to Upper Barrington and that she has nowhere to go, he offers marriage to the hysterical lady. His heart is so shattered, he will never love again. Why not make this helpless orphan happy? Soon after they wed, they become convinced that someone has forged her uncle’s will–and likely murdered her uncle. Their resolve to bring the murderer to justice jeopardizes Emma’s life. Knowing she’s in danger brings out Adam’s protective instincts–and something far deeper, something he’d thought to never feel again. . .
Emma Hastings is having the most miserable and the best day of her life . . . . ever! She has finally gotten to leave the small town of Upper Barrington, the stifling home of her elderly aunt, and has arrived in London! The long ride in the mail coach hasn’t dampened her spirits, but her missing uncle is causing her some concern. As night falls, Emma realizes her uncle not only isn’t coming to collect her, but she must make her way to his home, across London, alone if she is to have a safe place to sleep.
Adam Birmingham is staggering home from a night of drinking away his sorrows when he stumbles upon the lovely and lost Emma Hastings. As luck would have it, Emma’s uncle is Adam’s neighbor and Adam is more than strong enough to carry Emma’s belongings. When no one answers Emma’s knock, Adam has no choice but to take her in for the evening. Thanks to his drunkenness, it isn’t until the next morning that Adam recalls, Emma’s uncle has recently passed away. Though he didn’t present himself in the best light the previous night, Adam has every intention of helping Emma in her now dire time of need.
The friendship between Adam and Emma is instantaneous and given the circumstances of each, Adam feels it acceptable and even beneficial to propose marriage to Emma. For Adam, Emma is a friendly girl who adores being in London. She is kind and without his help would be utterly lost in the world. For Emma, the news she receives the day after arriving in London is devastating. Her uncle has passed and the promises he made to her concerning his home and business have been negated by the reading of his will. In the space of a few minutes time, Emma’s future and security have been ripped from her. Though she is stunned by his proposal, Emma understands her circumstances are, in fact dire and if she is to survive, she must marry Adam.
Adam and his family are among the wealthiest in all of England which makes a quick marriage far easier to come by. As Emma’s grief begins to fade, she settles into life with Adam and they both begin to ask questions regarding her late uncle. Too many things about his death just don’t make sense and with Adam’s help Emma is determined to get to the truth of the matter. It doesn’t take long for either to determine foul play was involved and who the fiend behind the grisly murder is. Unfortunately, Adam and Emma lack sufficient proof to bring the man to justice so they set about finding the proof they need and in doing so, bring a great deal of trouble and danger down on themselves.
The Bottom Line: Here’s the thing I LOVE about historical fiction, given the time and place, it is completely acceptable for a man to propose marriage to a woman he has known for 24 hours and even more acceptable and logical for her to accept!! Emma and Adam are absolutely perfect for one another. Her bright spirit, quick wit, and love of life are the perfect balance for Adam’s less enthusiastic personality. Adam is happy to help Emma and as their investigation deepens so do their feelings for one another. In all, Miss Emma Hastings and her handsome husband do indeed have an excellent adventure and they take the reader right along with them. There are moments of kindness, tenderness, humor, and danger and Emma and Adam are joined by Adam’s family both natural and extended. The added characters, the plot, and the quick dialogue all make this read entirely enjoyable!!
Cheryl Bolen is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of over 20 romances, both historical and contemporary mystery. Many of her books have placed in contests, including the Daphne du Maurier (romantic suspense) and have been translated into ten languages. She was Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion, Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards and she’s had four other titles place in that competition. Her 2011 Christmas novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages.