Bancrofts of Barton Park (Book 2)
The past is always hot on your heels…
Emma Bancroft used to pride herself on her sensible nature, but good
sense flew out the window during her first Season in London! Her
reputation and her belief in true love in tatters, she reluctantly
returns home to Barton Park.
David Marton is trying to live a quiet life -- until Emma comes sweeping
back. With whispers of scandal all about her, he knows she will never
be the right woman for him, but sometimes temptation is just too hard to
We first met Emma and David in The Runaway Countess, about Emma's sister Jane. This book takes place several years later. Emma eloped and lived to regret it, as her husband turned out to be a gambler and wastrel. After his death she has returned to Barton Park to put her life back together. David is a neighbor who has known Emma for a long time. He was attracted to her long ago, but considered her too frivolous and married someone else. That woman died while running away with a lover, leaving David with their five year old daughter. The attraction is still there between them, but neither one considers it a good idea.
I liked Emma very much. She admitted to the mistakes she made in the past and is determined to overcome them. She has a fair amount of pride and hates the idea of having to go to her sister for help. Rather than live in the main house, Emma has moved into one of the estate cottages. She is settling in there when she meets David again. She remembers him as a very stiff man, very proper and one who appeared to look down on her all those years ago. Her initial impression is that he hasn't changed at all. When she sees him again on several occasions she begins to think that he isn't as bad as he appears on the surface, especially when she sees him with his daughter. She really takes to the little girl, who reminds her a lot of herself, when she sees how much Beatrice likes to read. David asks Emma to give his daughter lessons while he searches for a governess. I loved seeing how Emma and Bea had so much fun together and how it helped Bea return to the happy little girl she had been before her mother's death. The lessons also put Emma and David in contact more often. Emma found that, when David relaxed his attitude, he could be a lot of fun and that they had more in common than she expected. She was also very attracted to him. As her feelings started to change and grow she faced the fact that because of her rather scandalous past she could never be the kind of woman David would want as a wife and mother for Bea. She was really down on herself about it. It only got worse when her husband's cousin showed up, trying to collect money owed to him. He was not a nice man at all and his presence just reminded her of what couldn't be. I loved the ending and seeing the way that David convinced her of his love.
David had always been on the serious side, except for a brief period in his youth. He had seen the problems that excessive emotion could cause and he wanted nothing to do with it. He took his sister's advice when he picked his wife and lived to regret it. Now he has brought his daughter home to the country as he starts to build a new life away from London. He worries about Bea, who has changed into a very quiet and withdrawn child. He knows he should eventually marry again and plans to choose his next wife very carefully. While he is drawn to Emma he considers her to be too much to make the kind of wife he needs. He is being "encouraged" by his sister to look at a friend of hers. He isn't really interested because his sister had been so off the last time, plus Bea doesn't like the woman at all. He can't believe how quickly Bea has gotten attached to Emma but can also see the positive changes in her. I loved his slow realization that being around Emma makes him happy in a way he had never known before. He also develops a protectiveness toward her that wants to save her from her problems. I loved his rescue of her from the ruins and his conversation later with Emma's brother-in-law. The scene at the assembly is great as he shows Emma just what she means to him.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the way it showcased a love of reading. Emma had always been a bookworm and I really enjoyed her visits to the local bookshop. It got even better when she decided she wanted to own it when the current owner retires. It also gave her a marvelous way to relate to Bea. It was fun to see them talk about books and the way that Emma encouraged Bea's interests.
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