by Annette Blair.
Zebra paperback, 290 pages. 2003.
Chastity Somers takes four children from the workhouse in the dead of night, encountering Reed Gilbride as she does. Later, they meet again at the estate of Sunnyledge where she has come with the children to stay, hoping that no heir ever arrives. For, in three months time will run out for anyone to claim being the Earl of Barrington and then the administrator of the estate will deed the property over to Chastity to use as an orphanage.
Chastity was raised by nuns, then married briefly to a man who received a letter telling him he may be the Earl of Barrington. He died only a few days after they were wed and before they could consummate their marriage. She had continued on with the voyage, arriving at the home of his aunt to find she had died and the four cousins of her husband taken away to the workhouse. She rescued them. Reed Gilbridge, raised without love, received the same letter and has come to investigate, but has no proof of birth.
The above description is a very abbreviated one and hardly does the story justice. There is so much more. Like – the deranged woman who tries to kill them, like the adorable children who each have their own personalities, and other things. I found the final explanation of their births a little hard to figure out, but it really seemed unimportant by that time. I must admit that I began to tire of two things that happened one time too many – his getting injured and his walking out on them. But, this story is an exceptional one that held my interest increasingly up to the very end.