Lizzie Whitaker is the 24-year-old daughter of a Yorkshire tenant farmer. Her younger sister is studying at Oxford, something Lizzie would have liked to do as well, but she left school at 16 in order to help her father, who has Parkinson's disease. As her father has grown increasingly disabled over the years, Lizzie has taken on more and more of the grueling work of keeping the farm going, until at the present time, she is entirely responsible for its upkeep. It's a harsh, lonely life, and her only source of companionship and affection is her dog. Her angry, bitter father offers her nothing but criticism and complaints and, on top of all that, the farm is so deeply in debt, they are in danger of losing the tenancy and becoming homeless. In the recent past, she and her sister inherited from their mother an island called Lionos in the Aegean Sea, but it is of no help to their family, because they can't sell it.
Lionos belonged to Cesare Sabatino's grandmother Athene's family, the Zirondis, for generations, until it was sold to Geraldo Luccini in the 1930's. Athene is currently old and sick and longs to return to her birthplace, if only for a visit. Cesare would like to buy the island for her from the Whitaker sisters, and he can well afford it, because he is a billionaire. However, the only way his family can regain the island, according to the airtight, intergenerational terms of Geraldo Luccini's will, is through a marriage between a descendant of the Zirondi family (which Cesare is) and a descendant of the Luccini family (which Lizzie and her sister are). If Cesare marries Lizzie, his grandmother can visit Lionos, but only if Cesare and Lizzie have a child can he buy the island from her, which is worth millions.
Lizzie meets Cesare for the first time when he comes to her family's farm and makes her an offer she finds impossible to resist: marry this gorgeous guy, who is enormously successful for a man who is only in his early 30's, and never spend another backbreaking day on the farm again, when Cesare ensures that all her family's financial problems vanish forever. The two big issues holding Lizzie back are her moral qualms about having a child for financial gain, and the major hurdle to consummating the marriage that she is a virgin who believes she is frigid.
This romance plot is unusual for Lynne Graham in that there is no unplanned pregnancy pushing the hero to marry the heroine, which is a nice change of pace. Lizzie is a strong heroine, who is very loyal to her family, especially her younger sister. Cesare, interestingly, comes from a large, lovingly demonstrative family and his austere personality makes him something of a cuckoo in the family nest. I enjoyed Lizzie's relationship with her younger sister, and found it believable that she sacrificed for her family and opted for a marriage of convenience with Cesare.
This story does not have all the intensity of some of Ms. Graham's most outstanding novels, such as Bond of Hatred, Married to a Mistress, Vengeful Husband, and Prisoner of Passion, but it it a pleasant read, and it is rather a relief to encounter a Harlequin Presents in which the hero isn't incessantly harsh to the point of cruelty in his interactions with the heroine.
I rate this book:
Romance Plot: 4