The second of five impoverished sisters, Miss Elinor Conley knows her dream of becoming a lady is farfetched. When an unmarried gentleman happens by her brother’s smithy, it is up to her to act quickly—and rashly—to secure his interest. But Grantham Wendell, Earl Chelford, isn’t in the market for anything more than a new horseshoe. What’s a bachelor to do when an innocent miss turns up at his Christmas Eve bacchanalia? He ought to make her leave, but his Twelfth Night party just became more entertaining..
Elinor is the second daughter of a blacksmith, lives in a small Gloucester town. One day she sees Grantham stop by to get his horse reshod, and she makes a decision to marry him, even though she knows nothing about him.
She devises a plan to get his attention, only for it to go near fatally wrong, and it’s only when she’s in his house that she realises how little she knows him – his other Christmas guests are here for one of his annual “Bacchanalia”s – where half the guests are prostitutes for the other half.
Grantham is bored of his friends, but uses them to forget the death of his younger sister some years previously. However, he is enchanted by the innocent Elinor, a nice foil to the world weary and far too knowing other women he’s taken to having as friends.
In the meeting with her previously never met Aunt – who Elinor finds out is not only a twin of her mother but disowned for being an actress – she finds an ally and that there is much she hasnt been told and just how naive and innocent she actually is.
Elinor is perhaps a little too naive for some readers – but as a woman with limited social circles, and certainly never presented with the situations she finally finds herself in, perhaps we’re too modern and cynical a set of readers. One slight quibble early on – the village is referred to as “5 blocks long” – an Americanisation that should never have strayed into a Regency English village (boooo!)