Robert Ashton is a West Country solicitor with a comfortable law practice helping poor people settle their disputes. He’s completely astounded by an inheritance of a London home and country estate from his estranged uncle, the ninth Earl of Hantford. Unfortunately, both properties are in disrepair, and the inheritance taxes are far more than Robert could ever afford to pay. His first instinct is sell the whole bit, but his mother is sentimental over her childhood home; she’d been cut off from the inheritance when her brother objected to her love-match marriage to Robert’s father. Instead of selling, she argues, Robert—an out, gay, mid-thirties man—should find a wealthy husband who’d marry him for the courtesy title of “Count Hantford.”
Robert thinks it’s ludicrous, but his mother signs him up for a matchmaker, and, while in NYC on business, he agrees to meet Daniel.
Daniel Fabian is a self-made wealthy man. He’d attended elite prep schools as a scholarship case, because his mother was widowed and wanted better for her two kids. Daniel never did get on with his snobbish classmates and has felt socially inferior most of his life as a result. He graduated from Columbia, where his homosexuality was accepted, but his pedigree not. Driven by a need to outshine his peers, Daniel’s created two fashion-type Internet businesses and both are very lucrative. He’s got lots of money, and his 15-year reunion looms on the horizon. He doesn’t want to attend, but he doesn’t want to be left out again, either. His secretary/confidante convinces him to try a matchmaking service, to find a “catch” of a date to show off. And, Daniel’s willing to try. He hasn’t had a boyfriend in years, and dating doesn’t go so well when you’re concerned that people only want you for your money.
Which is why it seems odd, at first, that Daniel will find Robert a viable partner. See, Daniel doesn’t want a gold-digger, but he recognizes a kindred spirit in Robert. He admires how Robert uses his education to help those in need, and he respects that Robert’s pretty-much upfront regarding the recent upheaval of his life. Plus, there’s no denying the mutual attraction. Perhaps they can help each other out. The courtesy title for Daniel in exchange for some investments into Robert’s estate—to bring it up-to-date and make it a thriving community-business. Daniel’s not willing to throw money into a vanity project; he sees potential profit in getting the land fit to farm, and raising crops and animals—plus turning the house into an attraction for visitors. Robert’s a little overwhelmed, but he admires Daniel’s business acumen. And, his physical assets. Daniel’s skittish about getting his heart mixed up in a business deal, which delays the sexytimes for a while. At least until Daniel visits Robert in England, to see the estate, and determine if they can make a real go of this venture.
This is a really sweet story. I loved the pacing and the careful revelation of character and motivation. Neither man is willing to take advantage of the other. They develop a professional rapport, and that leads to a physical relationship—because the attraction is really high. Daniel relishes his time in England, and it seems all is going well, until problems with his company intrude. Even as that means financial issues for the plans Daniel and Robert made, it doesn’t mean the end of things between them. Robert’s a rock, right when Daniel needs him, and vice versa. Their relationship grows in tenderness, and that was lovely to watch. The book spans roughly two months, plenty of time for these two lonely guys to dazzle each other silly.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.