The Portrait by Hazel Statham.
Edward Thurston and Lady Jennifer were engaged to be married. But that was before the war. Edward is severely injured at the battle of Salamanca. He spends time recuperating and then returns to his beloved Fly Hall, as the new Earl of Sinclair.
Unable to offer the wreck he has become to his prospective bride, he ends his betrothal, unaware that Lady Jennifer has also come to the same decision.
During the campaigns, Edward relied greatly on a miniature he carried. He continues to cling to it upon his return, though he doesn't realize others know if its existence.
Will Edward stand firm in his resolve not to marry or will he find happiness with the girl in the portrait?
I am familiar with some of Statham's other work--His Shadowed Heart and Lizzie's Rake--but I have to admit this time I think she has outdone herself.
Staying true to her "sweet romance" fans, in The Portrait, the author delivers an engaging story that builds on the attraction of two characters without taking those feelings into the bedroom. For very different reasons, Edward and Lady Jennifer have decided to call off their engagement, yet they cannot deny their feelings for each other, no matter how hard they try to hide them.
An incident involving Edward's and Lady Jennifer's young brothers finds them thrust together on a journey that might leave their reputations in tatters. The antics of their siblings, Edward's sense of humor, and Jenny's determination not to admit what she feels for the Earl of Sinclair all find the reader eagerly turning the pages. I don't believe it took me more than three nights to get from beginning to end, and then I was ready to start all over again.
What Statham has always done extremely well is create characters you care about; men and women who are for whatever reason spending a good deal of the time denying their feelings. Because the author takes the time to explore the many facets of these characters and why they deny themselves the glory of love, the reader can't help but be thrilled when they finally admit what they knew all along.
Regency romance novels don't get any better than The Portrait by Hazel Statham.
Title: The Portrait
Publisher: Avalon Books