by Julia Quinn, 373 pages
Anne Wynter is employed as governess to the rambunctious, independently-minded daughters of a well-to-do family, but the situation is exponentially better than the awkward, dangerous, and demoralizing past she's left behind. She wants nothing but to maintain the status quo and not attract any undue attention, but when she catches the eye of a titled prodigal recently returned from exile, her plan to remain happily anonymous falls apart. For his part, Daniel Smythe-Smith is tired of running away from his past and is content to follow his newly engaged heart, relieved at last to be home with a price no longer on his head...or so he thinks. When danger once again seems to stalk him, and doesn't hesitate to drag those he loves into its nets, he believes he knows the culprit. But whose past is catching up with whom?
This is another historical romance set in the same circles as Quinn's What Happens in London, with Daniel's family being responsible for the traditional talentless musical performances through which the ton suffers every year. I liked Daniel's and Anne's backstories and found them a little more interesting and involving than the present goings-on (though Anne's is a little more cheezily melodramatic). But the fact that Quinn actually bothers to give her characters some history and "character" that are more than just thin window dressing makes it easier to forgive the typical yet fun fluff of the main story. If she'd only carry more of that depth into the central plot, instead of just using it as set-up, I'd like her even more. Her interconnected tales and characters give a sense of substance to her fictional version of romance-minded English society and she does a nice job of balancing the needs of first-time readers with the rewards for repeat visitors. Snappy dialogue, a pleasant cast of side characters, and a happy ending, of course.