Gabrielle Astley is quite used to being an afterthought, a burden, a nuisance. As the only child – and a useless female one at that – to a Baron, she was both spoiled materially and neglected emotionally.
After her father’s death, his third wife and her stepmother is remarried, to the stern and cold Marquess of Dunbury. Since the new Baron wants nothing to do with Gabrielle, the Marquess is her new guardian and Gabrielle finds herself in London, receiving her debut. Despite this turn of events, she can’t quite shake her spite of her stepmother, and her attitude lands her into hot water and her first spanking at the hand of her guardian. The Marquess seems eager to marry her off, and Gabrielle has no objection to that goal. London has everything she ever wanted – glamor, excitement, and, for some reason, quite a few people actually seem to like and take an interest in her. When the Marquess’ best friend, the rakish Felix Hood becomes one of those people, Gabrielle finds herself hoping for more than just a standard ton marriage…until she begins to realize that he’snot interested in her for herself, and his interest may actually be in someone close to her. Felix Hood had no thoughts of settling down in marriage – as the youngest of three brothers, he should be the last to wed. However, when he meets his best friend Philip’s new ward and is tasked with the duty of helping guard her against any unsavory suitors (as well as guarding Philip’s new wife from Miss Astley’s waspish tongue), he can’t help but be entranced by her. She’s not the usual milk and water miss that is served up to the gentlemen of the tongue; she’s prickly, funny, and has a touch of sadness in her eyes that he longs to discover the cause of so that he may vanquish it. But he’s not convinced he’s ready for marriage, and his hesitation over formally courting her leads Miss Astley to turn to her other suitors, making him wonder if she’s really worth the chase.