Harriot Atherton has a secret: it is she, not her steward father, who maintains the Saybrook account books. But Harry’s precarious balancing act begins to totter when the irresponsible new viscount unexpectedly returns to Lincolnshire, the painfully awkward boy of her childhood now a charming yet vulnerable man. Unfortunately, Theo is also claiming financial malfeasance. Can her father’s wandering wits be responsible for the lost funds? Or is she?
As unlikely attraction flairs between dutiful Harry and playful Theo, each learns there is far more to the other than devoted daughter and happy-go-lucky lord. But if Harry succeeds at protecting her father, discovering the missing money, and keeping all her secrets, will she be in danger of failing at something equally important—finding love?
Comment: This is the third installment in the Pennigton series that I'm reading in order. So far, the previous books have given me mixed feelings but I feel invested in the siblings and how they achieve happiness.
In this third story we follow Theo, the oldest sibling and the one who inherited the title. Theo has always been considered a lazy person, not willing to be responsible, ever since his childhood when he started to show lack of interest for studies and serious duties. Since he couldn't change others' opinions, he decided to embark on a life which would match the expectations they had of him, thus becoming a man without care for anything. However, now he has inherited the title, his sister is married and although he doesn't seem like it, he does take his role with seriousness so he starts taking care of things when he is told of some missing dowry money from his accounts. That leads him to his county estate, where his father's man of affairs does his work. However, what he finds confuses him even more, especially since he reconnects with his childhood friend Harriot, the steward's daughter and he can't tell if he wants to be worthy of her or if he prefers to keep his secrets...
This being the third book, I think I can say that the author's style is one of serious intent which means the stories are very detailed and rich in historical content. Yes, the romance is always in evidence but I wouldn't say these are "fun" stories. The writing style isn't one, let's say, that makes me eager to re-read my favorite parts because those aren't many. The books are interesting to read as a whole but I can't explain well enough how the feeling that the parts of the book just don't seem impressive on their own.
Theo is a fascinating character and when his self perceived shortcomings come to surface, it's difficult to not feel a little sorry for him. Of course one thinks about the injustice done to so many people throughout the centuries who suffered/were afflicted by certain conditions which society/medicine/psychology couldn't yet explain fully and how that "condemned" people to ostracism and lack of self esteem and so many other things. These still happen nowadays but it's true that a diagnose can be quicker to be found and even coping mechanisms of a cure/solution doesn't exist.
Still, although I felt sorry for Theo because he didn't have anyone who could respect and understand his issue and, therefore, help him coping, I must say I wasn't too fond of his way of reacting, by having become a careless bon.vivant who only showed others his superficial side. I can understand the psychology of it but I'd rather he had turned a different path. I admit I prefer the choice of becoming a martyr or even a secluded or quiet person, avoiding conflict than those who go the opposite way. Again, though, it can depend on how the author's develop the characters...I've read some characters who behaved like Theo whom I liked, but I didn't feel that here.
That means the story was not setting on a likable notion for me and I never stopped feeling Theo wasn't shown to others as someone who merited respect and caring, at least not in a obvious and strong way. His relationship with Harriot is cautious at first, she does help him realize his worth in other things, a smart person doesn't have to be knowledgeable about every single subject that exists after all. Some moments between them were sweet and had its romantic flavor but I can't say I'll remember them fondly.
Harriot is a good heroine, she wanted to help her father, she wanted to help Theo, she was someone that in real life would probably be a little too much of a "goody two shoes" but on paper I liked how dedicated she was to what she felt was had to be done. I liked how supportive she was of Theo but to be fair, I didn't really feel the vibe between them, I don't think the author really went as far as she could to portray well the chemistry they had... I suppose it's a trait of her writing style, she doesn't seem to be romantic scenes oriented, even when those are on the page.
I wish the relationships and the interactions with the secondary characters had also been a little sweeter, a little more tender. I keep thinking that they don't seem to be a close family and despite some scenes where it looks as if the author tried to change that impression, the development of the stories didn't convince me they were truly caring...but for the most part the idea and the suggestion of it gave me enough reason to trust they did.
I'm still curious about the secondary characters, especially Benedict, the remaining single sibling and I have bet all my chips on his romance, I surely hope it will be well accomplished.