Anna Black – Governess, seamstress, and artist. She is running from impending scandal, having been made the unknowing model for a book of drawings of a lovely nude woman. The book is called The Beautiful One.
Elizabeth Tarryton (Lizzie) – Orphaned niece and ward of Viscount Grandville. She was kicked out of Rosewood School and sent to Grandville with Miss Black as her companion.
Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville – Widower, loner, unwelcoming toward Anna and Lizzie. Wants nothing to do with his ward or her lovely companion.
The stage is set. The Viscount's home has been invaded by two women that refuse to leave. Will is bound and determined that Lizzie does not belong in his house, but as long as she is there, Anna must stay as her governess. For Anna and Lizzie, one month is the predetermined maximum length of their stay. By the end of the month, Lizzie will have a new school and Anna will be on her way to her Aunt's house. The Viscount will have the mansion to himself again.
Before she leaves, Anna plans to make sure the Viscount realizes his familiar responsibility is more than just duty. After all, Lizzie is the daughter of his dear friend. And Lizzie will use all her youthful powers of persuasion to endear herself to her uncle. Both Anna and Lizzie resolve to thwart Will's plans.
There is some instant physical attraction between Will and Anna. Attraction that is intensified when Will experiences Anna's impertinent manner and her disinclination to back down from a Viscount. Anna's affection toward Will grows as she learns more about him. What she learns reveals a heart that the dour Viscount would endeavor to keep buried.
In the meantime, the threat of The Beautiful One – the possibility of being exposed – looms over Anna's head. The threat to Anna and anyone that is associated with her is one that must be avoided at all costs.
There is chemistry between Anna and Will. That much is certain. It is revealed in the dialog – which I enjoyed, as much as in their more amorous scenes – which I also enjoyed! It will take a lot of pages to work through all the issues though - class, loss, and secrets.
While Anna and Will are sparking, Lizzie is coming into her own. She stumbles several times, which endears her to those around her even more. There is a funny scene with garden statuary that I adored. I really liked the relationship between Anna and Lizzie. Both orphans, both intelligent, both with unladylike upbringings. And both running from something. Or is it running to something? It was nice to see this friendship develop between the two of them. I would have liked to see a similar development of the relationship between Lizzie and Will, but it was a bit choppy.
The verdict. I'm not raving about it, but I did like it. For historical romance readers, The Beautiful One has a nice balance of troubles, humor, and, of course, romance.
**ARC provided by Publisher**