It’s the early 19th century, and squire’s daughter Maggie Honeywell loves bastard stableboy Nicholas Seaton, and for that reason she helps him escape the hangman’s noose on spurious charges of theft brought by the baronet’s son, Fred Burton-Smythe. Ten years later, after a long period of illness and mourning, a worn-down Maggie contemplates whether she can stand to marry Fred, her ostensible guardian, in order to inherit Beasley Park, her family estate. When Fred gets himself embroiled in a matter of honor, Maggie approaches his challenger to plead for Fred’s life and falls into a dead faint: the Viscount St. Clare, newly returned from the Continent, is Nicholas Seaton to the life.
St. Clare, heir to the Earl of Allendale, is being pressured to marry and produce an heir. He’s drawn to Maggie, but to win her, he must convince her to see him, St. Clare, instead of the lost love she wants him to be.
The question of who St. Clare really is produces the novel’s driving tension, and to answer it once and for all, Maggie sets out to find out the truth about Gentleman Jim, the rogue who fathered Nicholas Seaton and the prodigal son who brought Allendale nothing but shame.
This is Regency romance at its most charming: Maggie is a spirited heroine, St. Clare is the epitome of the dashing beau, and the connection between them evolves through poignant moments staged amid scenes of balls and duels, drives and visits, highway robberies and tavern brawls, mistaken identity and lasting love. Matthews demonstrates that even a frothy Regency romp can carry rewarding emotional heft. Gentleman Jim is an utter delight.