This is the first book of the Web trilogy by Mary Balogh. Often Balogh’s series get better as they progress, but in this case the first book is my favorite.
The story begins with Alexandra Purnell being abducted and taken to the Earl of Amberley’s home, where she is left for the night. When Edmund, the Earl, discovers her trussed up on his sister’s bed, he quickly discovers that Alex was mistaken for his sister Madeline. Madeline’s twin, Dominic, had encouraged some of his friends to stop her from a possible elopement, and this was the tactic his unwise friends had chosen. Unfortunately, they abduct the wrong woman. Despite Edmund’s best efforts, the story soon gets out, and Alex’s reputation is destroyed and her betrothal to the Duke of Peterleigh ended. He persuades a very reluctant Alex to become his fiancee, and they embark on a visit to his country estate.
This rather convoluted series of events sets the stage for Alex and Edmund to begin their courtship. Alex has grown up in a strict home, with an overbearing father. She is loathe to allow another man to control her destiny, even with the best intentions, and she resents needing Edmund to protect her. She is an unusual heroine, because she spends most of the story trying to get out of her engagement, while acknowledging Edmund’s sincerity and good heart. She is not looking for love; she is looking for personal freedom.
Edmund, on the other hand, has been the head of his family since he was nineteen, and he has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. He spends his time caring for, and protecting the people he loves, even against his own interests. He feels responsible for Alex’s predicament, he admires her courage, and he longs to take care of her.
Balogh has created two engaging characters with very different points of view who develop a relationship based on respect, trust and love. The side characters and stories are interesting as well, and this was a fun read.