*NB This review first appeared in the July ARRA newsletter – so the format is slightly different and it’s also shorter than usual.*
There aren’t many historical romances around set in 1903 so when I got the chance at an early copy of this book (which is now out), I jumped at the chance. Louisa Stratton is the heiress of the title. Her parents died when she was a child and she was raised by her Aunt Grace – a cold woman whose motives are murky – even when Grace is being kind, she is more cruel than anything. After inheriting her fortune at age 25, Louisa escapes with her maid, Kathleen, to the continent, to get away from her awful family. After a “indiscretion” with a local landowner at age 17, Louisa’s activities have been much curtailed and she’s been a virtual prisoner at the family estate, Rosemont. A year after her “escape”, she discovers some oddities in her finances and receives reports that her aunt is very ill. Against her own desires, she decides she needs to go home for Christmas and check on things. There is a problem though. To stop Aunt Grace from fussing, Louisa has told her family she has met and married one Maximillian Norwich – a man whose perfection is only eclipsed by the fact that he doesn’t exist.
Mrs. Evensong, a rather mysterious woman who runs an employment agency and seems to have a knack for solving problems and matchmaking, locates Captain Charles Cooper, a man suffering from PTSD after serving in the Boer War in Africa, to play the part of Max for a month. In pretending to be married, Louisa and Charles find opportunities for indiscretions of their own and along the way, they fall in love.