Duke's Obsession/Book 3
Windham series/Book 4
Sourcebooks/November 1, 2011
From the author's website ~
Ellen Markham tells herself she's happy raising flowers and living in near penury in the Oxfordshire countryside, but when Valentine Windham moves in just on the other side of the wood, Ellen's longing for things she can never have threatens to overcome her good sense. Valentine's artistic soul, tender loving, and ducal determination tempt Ellen to trust and confide in a man who can only be endangered, should he learn of her past. For Valentine, regaining his musical skill becomes far less urgent than winning Ellen's heart.
To clear up any confusion, this is the fourth book in the Windham series which is about the Windham offspring, three males, five females. Within the series there are two sub-series, The Duke's Obsession and The Duke's Daughters. This is all explained on Ms. Burrowes' website. I've read the first book, The Heir, and while there were a couple of times when I felt like I was missing information on a secondary character, it didn't detract from the story.
Valentine Windham may not believe it but luck is on his side. He is attempting to recover from an injury when he wins an estate in a game of chance. He decides to journey to the estate and make improvements on his winnings. While there he meets Ellen Markham, a widow who lives in a cottage on the estate. Val comes to know Ellen and in doing so he becomes enchanted by her and propositions her. She's not a simpering virgin nor is she as experienced as Val. Theirs is a relationship based on mutual need, trust and friendship. Which turns out to be a good basis for a romance.
Ellen Markham is content. I would say she has moments of happiness but she is also lonely and foresees no real chance of that changing, or so she thinks. Then Valentine Windham comes into her life and things begin to change. Ellen is attracted to the charismatic Val but believes he would want nothing to do with her. As their perceptions change so do their feelings. I liked seeing their friendship develop along with the romance. You could tell they enjoyed spending time together and were not simply biding their time until they could become intimate.
Both Val and Ellen have secrets which lead to some misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I understood why they kept their secrets but not why they revealed them so late in the game. Val's true identity, that of the son of a powerful Duke, was kept quiet so he could simply be Mr.Windham. It made sense since Val isn't one to "put on airs" but get his hands dirty right along with the hired help. Ellen secret is far darker, causing her great sadness and despair. When it is revealed I could certainly understand her sadness but found it difficulty to believe that she felt such guilt over something that wasn't her fault.
The villain in the story is a complete idiot. Which only proves that even idiots can cause a tremendous amount of trouble through sheer luck and stubbornness. While trying to figure out who is sabotaging Val's new estate, Val and his friends continue to work on repairing the various buildings and getting to know the locals. It's a well rounded cast that adds to the environment of the story. Sometimes there were a few too many secondary characters and I felt like I had missed information on their connection to Val. I did like the country setting but didn't always have a true sense of the time period.
The Virtuoso's strength lies in the hero and heroine and their developing romance. While the hero and his buddies male bonding fell flat. With the stories of the three Windham sons completed, it's up to the Windham daughters to continue the tradition of finding and falling in love.
Books in this series ~
Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish
Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal (May 2012)
Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight (October 2012)
Lady Eve's book (Spring 2013/tentative)
Lady Jenny's book (October 2013/tentative)