Our hero: James Latimer, the future Duke of Ellesmere, has all the trappings of a first class romantic hero – fortune, charm, good looks and sexual allure – but more than that, James has a turbulent personal life. He meets the woman of his dreams a week before her wedding to another man only to be reunited with her when his impetuous fiancée elopes with the lady's brother. And all the while his family deals with a kidnapping, death and rumours of bigamy…
His heroine: Esmé Bessborough, happily engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Michael Seymour, meets James in the Countess of Irvine's picturesque garden on the night her fiancé abandons her for another. The two share a passionate kiss that forever changes the course of their lives.
The novel: Is based primarily around the romantic relationship between James and Esmé. The events and tribulation they suffer only makes them stronger as a couple. The first three chapters introduce and give in detail the foundation of the two, who they are, and where their heart lies. They spend the majority of the book in each other's company building their bond through laughter and conversation.
Together: They are brilliant and prove it time and again to each other with honest, sometimes contentious, but always genuine emotions. Whether it be his taking her on a madcap tour of her new home in order to put her at ease or her holding him close when he comes to term with a devastating loss, James and Esmé are pitch-perfect and lovingly romantic.
Their story: Ellesmere opens in London 1816 when James saves Esmé from falling face first into the thorn-filled arbour at the Countess of Irvine's midnight ball. The two fall into easy conversation, while he helps with her broken heel. They share a passionate kiss, which is cut short by an apologetic Esmé, who was at the time but a week from her wedding.
Disappointed, but duty bound to marry, James, with the aid of his overbearing aunts, finds and proposes marriage to the stunning Lady Joanna Montgomery – one of Esmé's dearest friends. James and Joanna's wedding was postponed when first, her grandmother, then his grandfather, dies.
James, now Ellesmere, bids farewell to his cousin Simon with whom he was managing the late duke's interests, when Simon sets sail to India with the Marquess Leeds and his lovely daughter Iris. While apart, Simon marries Iris and goes on to build fortune and a family while James grows wealthier and lonelier with each passing year as he waits for his fiancée to come out of mourning.
Esmé, heartsick due to Michael's betrayal and James' engagement to her best friend, survives her ordeal by busying herself with the season's entertainment, until James' near constant presence drives her into hiding at her Cousin Inez's cozy cottage in Bath where, soon after, a letter from Joanna reaches her.
Joanna writes pleading with Esmé to offer her sanctuary until she is able to break her engagement with James so that she might be with the one she truly loves – Esmé's brother, Thomas. Esmé believes the letter to be a cruel lark and dismisses it only to have its writer turn up the day after her letter with Thomas on her arm. The two had eloped when James wrote informing Joanna of his intent to visit her in Kent to settle the matter of their overlong engagement.
The two now married, but indebted to James because of the fortune he settled on Joanna's family, begs Esmé to take Joanna's place as James' wife. Though reluctant because of her constant run-ins with James, Esmé journeys to London with the newlyweds to inform their parents. Once there, Esmé is quickly convinced to go along for the good of her family.
On the same day Esmé agrees to be the family saviour, James is summoned to the sickroom of the Marquess Leeds, where he is given custody of Simon's son Christopher. The child and his grandfather had fled India after his mother died and his father disappeared.
Outside the Marquess' chambers, James is greeted by Leeds' son Broderick who confides in James his belief that his older brother Alan is alive and behind Simon's disappearance. The two join forces to uncover the truth behind Simon's disappearance with Broderick volunteering to go to India providing that James allows the little boy to remain with the sick Marquess.
The following morning, James and Esmé meet by chance in Hyde Park. After a long revealing conversation Esmé proposes he marries her in place of Joanna. James agrees to her suggestion without question only to return to his home in Park Lane to find Thomas waiting for him. Thomas confesses to James his love for Joanna and their subsequent elopement before proceeding to relay how his sister was willing to sacrifice herself if James would but accept the substitution.
This meeting leaves James believing Esmé is only marrying him to save her family from debt and when her father turns up spouting about knowledge of James and Esmé's clandestine past conduct, the two have no choice but to marry by special license. They rush to the altar amidst rumours of a ruinous resurrection, bigamy and a pregnant mistress.
In spite of it all they share a passionate wedding night. The following morning they are awoken by Broderick who is furious at what he perceives to be James' betrayal, for while he was preparing for his trip to India someone took Christopher away from Leeds' sick room and the old man died alone.
James calms Broderick down and the two break their fast under the mistaken belief that the child was with one of James' overbearing aunts, only to have gossip confirmed as fact when a ransom note is delivered from the believed dead Countess of Spalding demanding £80,000 in return for Simon and Christopher. The misguided Countess who had run off five years ago with the Marquess of Leeds eldest son Alan had returned, gravely ill and desperate to have her two daughters settled before she died.
The ransom is paid and both Simon and Christopher are delivered unharmed a few hours before the Countess succumbs to her sickness. Her little daughters are placed with their stepmother and the whole matter seems settled until they learn Alan too is alive.
In the midst of all this, our couple, married but essentially strangers, make an honest attempt at understanding each other only to have their fragile happiness threatened by his former mistress' slanderous claims. Lady Yarmouth told a house full of guests that the child she was carrying was James'. Her incensed husband separates from her with divorce pending upon the birth and confirmation of the child's paternity.
Esmé, in love with James, but unable to tolerate anymore heartache confronts him with the lady's claims. James tells her the truth of his long broken off affaire with the troubled lady. James and Esmé, happy and in love, declare their love for one another. Lady Yarmouth gives birth to a little boy, blonde, round and the very image of her husband.
The following summer sees the birth of James and Esmé's first child Julius Augustus Latimer, named in honour of date of his birth— between July 31st and August 1st.
Have a Happy Monday