I've just finished this book with a smile on my face :) It's an absolute gem; sweet and funny and filled with great characters.
The hero starts out as your typical Regency hero - handsome, rich, titled and arrogant - but right from the start, it's obvious there's something missing in his life and that he's aware of it but has no idea what it is. He's a widower twice over and has two young sons, one by each of his wives, but he's not at all involved in their lives; in fact, he suspects that neither of them are his. His youngest is ensconced far away from town, at Rock Hall where he is cared for by the elderly staff, and Rockford considers that he does his fatherly duty towards him by visiting him on high-days and holidays.
On his latest visit to his country seat, Rockford discovers his youngest son has been "removed" from Rock Hall by a local widow, and he sets off to reclaim him, livid.
The widow in question is Alissa Henning, mother of two young boys herself, who is appalled that such a young child has been left practically alone for so long. Immediately, it's clear that although impoverished, Alissa is a lady and that she adores her boys and Rockford's too.
Realising that he's not been much of a father, yet seeking a way to ensure his son's comfort without inconvenience to himself, Rockford proposes marriage to Alissa. She accepts, realising that life isn't going to get any easier for her, her sons and her younger sister, and following an unwelcome proposal by the local lecher.
The children in the story are rather charming, although the younger of Rockford's son is rather a handful! There are a couple of secondary romances (three if you count the mad-as-a-hatter aunt and the butler!) and all the characters are drawn superbly.
What I absolutely loved was Rockford's transfomation from the haughty, man-about-town to a somewhat bamboozled yet endearing man who is just learning how to be a father and a good husband. He enjoys spending time with all the boys and although he'd wanted a marriage of convenience, falls hopelessly in love with his wife. He doesn't realise it at first, and of course resists it - but he can't resist her, and against his better judgement, takes her to bed.
The thing is, he's so desperate for her that the sex is over almost immediately and is completely unfulfilling for Alissa.
Alissa stared at the ceiling. How could she sleep when every inch of her body was on fire, when she wanted to launch herself off the bed, knock him to the floor and demand that Rockford satisfy the cravings he had aroused?
At least now she knew why his wives had left him.
And their second encounter is no different:
Just when she was about to extinguish her candle, he came.
He came. And then he kissed her forehead and left.
All Alissa had in return for her day's efforts were another restless, unfulfilled sleep and a wet spot.
So she finds a copy of the Kama Sutra in the library and puts it under his pillow!
There are so many chuckle-inducing moments in this book, I'd run out of space if I tried to quote them all.
Of course, all ends well, but not before there is one hell of a mess when Alissa's sons decide to run away to Oxford, her sister is kidnapped by the aforementioned lecher and the bonkers aunt proposes to the butler!
A truly wonderful read.