Edward, an excentric young heir to the Hartlepool estate, exiles himself to southern France after his father passes away leaving him with the burden of owing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs an enormous sum of back taxes… enormous. Edward’s father had never been of the opinion that he was entitled to pay, but now Edward is left with the mess.
After ignoring letters from his solicitors and accountants for the past five years, he one day decides on a whim to open up two letters that will change his life forever. The first is from the butler Horace announcing the arrival of a Lady Alice Birtley at the main house. The only problem is that Edward has never heard of a Lady Alice Birtley and he wants to know why she is hold up in his home.
The second letter was from his accountant informing him that his time away as a non-dom has come to an end. A settlement has been reached with revenue and customs so Edward can and should return to England to take care of the matter.
Upon his return, he immediately is introduced to Lady Alice Birtley. Throughout the course of the first half of the book, she explains to Edward that she used to be one his father’s mistresses – before his mother. She describes a father that Edward would have loved to have known. A man that showed someone love. Edward felt his whole life that he had been deprived of love in the big stately house.
At first, he wants to get rid of Alice. He has enough to deal with the banks and Anabel’s, one of his childhood friends, new hotshot boyfriend Geoff trying to take over his land to supposedly save it from going to ruin. He doesn’t need this strange old woman at foot. Soon, though, Alice and Edward develop a relationship to one another. Edward talks and Alice listens. He realizes that he needs her and wishes her to stay. The only problem is that he still doesn’t know who she really is or if she is legit, but then her past and his present start to catch up with them.
The story goes on to get quite messy. There is a loveless love triangle, a grand estate that needs saving but at what cost and the displacement of a spoiled, rich, grown man who has never worked a day in his life. In the last few chapters of the book, we finally see Edward grow up and become the man that he is. He stops taking the easy way out of life and owns up to his responsibilities as painful as they may be.
I found the book to be very entertaining. Paul Torday managed to throw in a story plot that I did not see coming. It was quite shocking and good. It’s amazing what people will sink to when it comes to money…