Maggie Windham is the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Moreland with a courtesan and was adopted by the Duke and Duchess of Moreland when she was a young girl. She may have scandalous beginnings but she is determined not to have a scandalous life (like her natural mother) -- Maggie has striven to live a spotless, quiet life away from the prying eyes of society.
On the surface, it seems that Maggie has it all: a comfortable and independent life, a family who supports her, wealth and connections, etc. -- but when something valuable goes missing and Maggie cannot find it, she is forced to open her house and her life to Benjamin Hazlit.
Benjamin Hazlit has worked for the Windhams for a long time and is privy to a lot of the family's secrets. He has also worked for members of the Ton: locating runaway daughters, exposing marital infidelities, uncovering financial problems, etc. -- his work involves probing into the deep dark secrets of the upper-crust and keeping those secrets.
When Maggie Windham suddenly hires him for a job, he is curious and determined to discover what secrets Maggie Windham hides -- but he must also make sure that Maggie doesn't discover all of his secrets first.
This is the second book in Grace Burrowes' The Duke's Daughters sub-series (and the fifth book in the Windham Family series) -- in this installment, we meet Maggie, the Windham's eldest adopted daughter. Maggie is a paragon and the Windhams adore her and rely on her sensible nature. But Maggie is a puzzle: she doesn't go out much in society, except to visit with her mother and sisters and her brothers. And not much is known about her in social circles.
Like an iceberg, a portion of Maggie is exposed to all, but a large part of Maggie is submerged -- while her family has seen glimpses of it, the greater part of Maggie's personality has been kept hidden.
Maggie worries that, because of her origins, any close association with her might result in social disaster. She has kept suitors away and has very few friends. (She hesitates to even let a dog in her house.) She is a woman who is so composed and in control of herself and all aspects of her life -- but like the stillest and most placid water, one touch still causes ripples. And that's what Benjamin Hazlit sees.
I like Ben Hazlit -- he's a very good investigator and has amazing powers of observation. (He reminds me of the modern Sherlock, from BBC) -- he moves in society but society keeps a wide berth from him, afraid that Ben might discover their secrets.
The inclusion of Maggie's two families and Ben's cousin serves to show the bigger world that our hero and heroine live in. What is wonderful is that there is an intimacy to the encounters of Benjamin and Maggie, despite the problems they face, when they are together -- there is a peacefulness that exists.
I love how Ben and Maggie share their worries with each other. They have a very comfortable and very honest love. I love how, in the end, it is not only Maggie who is saved by their love, but also Ben and his relationship with his sisters.
Maggie's two mothers are also a study in contrast: while both Esther and Cecily have had their share of scandals, Esther, the Duchess of Moreland has chosen to reform for the sake of her children. She has withstood her husband's unfaithfulness not once, but twice and has exhibited an immeasurable love for her children: both natural and adoptive. Maggie has always feared that she would be like her mother -- and, in the end, ironically, it is revealed that she is exactly like her mother Esther. A woman who was willing to sacrifice herself and her all for the sake of love.
This is not a novel about monumental moments, but of small gestures: held hands, borrowed riding gloves, stolen locks of hair, tea and creme cakes -- all infinitesimal in the grand scheme of life but utterly essential in the building of love.
The next book, Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight, features Louisa Windham and will be released in October 2012.
To find out more about the author and her upcoming books, visit her website. Grace Burrowes is also on Facebook.
Final note: I would love to read more about Archer, Ben's cousin and heir. I hope he gets his story told. ^_^