Second Chances

Second Chances - Tess St. John 3+ starsThis romance, while somewhat predictable, is heart warming. It's like a great cup of hot cocoa on a cold day - soothing, warm, and just makes you feel good!It's 5 years after the Earl of Easton, Harmon Winterbourne, rescued the 15 year old Emma from her abusive father and whisked her away in marriage, making her Lady Easton. Harmon is now in his 80s and dying. He's estranged from his children, but he's never told Emma quite what the problem was; she only knows he's written to them several times, but his children want nothing to do with him.Before he dies, Harmon asks his good friend, Lord Harold Drake the fifth Viscount Drake, to marry Emma. Lord Drake is in his late 20s and is widowed with a 2 year old daughter, Samantha. His wife died in childbirth. Lord Drake has vowed to never marry again; he doesn't think he could ever love a woman like he loved his first wife. Both Drake and Emma are embarrassed by Harmon's request, Harmon does manage to get Lord Drake to promise to watch over Emma after he dies; Harmon especially warns Drake to keep her father from her.After Harmon's death, Emma dutifully sends out the notice of his death to his family and to the papers. But only Lord Drake and his mother show up for Harmon's funeral; none of his children bother to come. Emma figures they'll come in short order, though, because Harmon's lawyer cannot read the will until all those mentioned in it are present.It's a time of economic upheaval for England, and many of its banks seem to be closing. Lord Drake discovers that all his cash holdings are gone. He still has other investments and properties he can sell, but he's only got enough cash on hand for the next few months. Drake let his wife handle the books, and after her death, he could never be bothered. He still doesn't want to deal with any of it, so he asks Emma if it would be alright for him to bring Samantha, her nanny, his mother, her sister, and some servants to live with her until Harmon's children arrive. Both Lord Drake and his mother are mentioned in the will, so they'll need to be present. Emma is delighted to have the company.In her years in the house, Emma has acted more as a companion/servant than the lady of the house. She even occupies a small bedroom close to the Lord's bedroom rather than occupying the Lady's chambers. When Drake and his mother arrive, they put an end to Emma's servant days, and his mother and her sister take up training Emma on how to act, dress, and look like a lady.When Harmon's children do arrive, they're not very friendly. And when the will is read, and Emma receives all the cash and liquid holdings that Harmon had, she protests. During the reading of the will, it comes out that Harmon's first wife (and his children's mother) moved out of the house after their last child, a son, died. She was in her late 40s then, and because Harmon didn't want her to have the child, fearing for her life, she went to live with her eldest son and told all her children that Harmon had killed their baby brother... which is why the children hated their father. Drake's mother puts an end to that, as does the local minister. His children realize what fools they've been and how wonderful Emma was to their father, and their attitudes change.Until Emma's father breaks into the reading of the will, demanding to represent Emma, since she's not yet 21 years old. He seems to have an ally in the eldest son, now the Earl of Easton. Emma's father makes it clear that he intends to have her marriage to the late earl annulled and take her back with the intent of "selling" her in marriage to another man immediately. Lord Drake and 2 of Harmon's other sons force Emma's father from the room, but not before noticing the affect on Emma. They all realize she's afraid for her life.Can Lord Drake stop Emma's father from annulling her marriage and forcing her into another marriage? What about the feelings that Emma and Lord Drake seem to be developing for one another? And now that Emma is wealthy (should her marriage not be annulled), what will she think of Drake's financial position and his asking to move into her house?=========Again, this is a predictable story - yes, even with its various twists, it's predictable. But it's a good, satisfying Cinderella story set in Regency times.