Miles Fletcher, a dandy who has made his living by dealing in beautiful art, is about to inherit his ailing uncle’s vast estate. After Uncle Lester has an unusually good night at the card table, he sends Miles to a house party to “save an innocent lamb from being fleeced.” Little does Miles know that the innocent lamb–one Aurora Ramsay–would be a diamond in the rough. Little does he know that they would strike a bargain: she will teach him how to run a farm, and in exchange he will teach her the skills necessary to secure a wealthy husband. And little does he know that he would fall in love with her.
For me, one of the most charming moments of the book is Miles’s discovery of Aurora. Arriving with his sister at the house party, their carriage passes a gathering of archers. As Miles and Grace stop their carriage, the hero spots the freckled, red-headed Aurora plying her bow and arrow in a hunter-green sporting outfit. As she raises her bow and fires a bullseye, Miles immediately recognizes that Aurora is exquisite, “a goddess sublime,” Diana the Huntress!
Imagine his shock when he finds her at the houseparty, ill-dressed, unable to dance, and poorly skilled in any of the feminine graces. She even falls on the dance-floor–right on top of the wealthy man she’s hoping to marry. Still, Miles is entranced.
Unfortunately, Aurora has a less than favorable view of dandies. She–raised with five elder brothers, most of which have gone to pot and wasted their bodies and the family fortune–prefers a manly sort of man, not a perfumed, pretty aesthete who has little understanding of the science of farming.
As Miles and Aurora tutor each other, their relationship heats up. Unfortunately, they both have circumstances that impede romance: Aurora knows she must marry a wealthy man to save her family’s estate, and Miles secretly knows that her eldest brother has already lost it to Miles’s uncle, and he is bound to inherit it. With so many obstacles between them, how can their relationship prosper–especially when Miles has pledged to do whatever he can to rescue Aurora, even if it means helping her marry another man?
Now, Aurora must learn whether her ideal match is really a wealthy man who is in absolute agreement with her on everything–or an artistically-inclined dandy whose talents counterbalance her own. Should she have to make herself over to be a true gem–or can she be herself and still find wedded bliss?
A point in favor of The Love Knot is the sensitive treatment of a secondary romance between Miles’s highly-sought-sister, Grace, and Aurora’s only well-behaved brother. Rue has given up on romance, you see, after losing a leg in the war. Grace, however, wants a man of more substance than her assertive, former suitors.
I also enjoyed the interplay between Miles and Aurora, who is never sure if she likes or dislikes her tutor. Dandies are so little like her standard of masculinity, the macho brothers who raised her after their parents’ death. Yet, she finds herself strangely resentful of any woman Miles pays attention to–other than herself. As she blossoms under Miles’s careful curation, she fears that she is nothing more than a piece of art that he wants to frame to its best advantage.
The chemistry between Miles and Aurora is excellent. Since Miles takes it upon himself to teach his “lamb” how to win a man, he tutors her on some of the more . . . intimate . . . aspects of male-female interactions. Although his motives are not wholly pure (wouldn’t it be nice if she fell for him instead of the wealthy-but-bland Lord Walsh?), the effect is tantalizing. The climax of the book is suggestive without being explicit. Fairchild’s novel is hotter than the “2 – Sensual” rating would suggest.
I recommend The Love Knot as a charming, surprisingly sexy book with punchy dialogue, compelling characters, and believable obstacles in the way of the protagonists’ ultimate happiness.