This was probably the most unexpected of all the books in this series that I've read so far. Then again, Eloise is certainly capable of doing the most unexpected things!At the end of the previous book (or was it in that book's Epilogue II?), we discovered that Eloise had run away into the country and spent several days in a widowers' home. We also discovered that Eloise and this man, who turns out to be Sir Phillip, were forced by convention to marry. (There was no chaperone in the house while she stayed there. Regardless of how chaste their time had been, in that time and society, the implications of what might have gone on were more important.)In this book, we find out the story behind that "scandal". Ms. Quinn lead us on in the previous books with Eloise's fascination with "writing letters" -- Eloise's explanation of her perpetual ink-stained fingers. We learn that among her correspondents, Eloise failed to mention she and Sir Phillip have been writing letters to one another for an entire year. And that Sir Phillip offered marriage to Eloise -- or at least, he offered for her to visit him, to see if they suited one another enough to marry. The problem is, that Eloise was the probably the most shocked and surprised at her brother Colin's betrothal and subsequent marriage to her friend Penelope. Penelope and Eloise were 28, considered spinsters and unmarriageable. In fact, before Colin declared himself, the friends expected to be spinsters together. But everything changed -- most of all for Eloise. She suddenly discovered that the majority of her siblings were now married, and all but Francesca (a widow), happily married to their true loves.So Eloise does the unthinkable. She plans a hasty escape from Town to visit Sir Phillip and see if it's possible for her to find a spark in this man... if it's possible for her to be married. We learn Sir Phillip's story -- how his sadistic father beat him and his elder brother, how his elder brother died at Waterloo thus making Phillip the heir, how Phillip married his brother's intended because it was "expected", how his 1st wife was melancholy before she gave birth to twins but even more so after, how she took her life despite his efforts to save her, and how Phillip has been trying to manage his life and children since.Plenty of angst, but bittersweet. This is perhaps the most bittersweet and the most tender of the series so far. When you realize all that Phillip has been up against and how walled off he's become, you can't imagine that he & Eloise could ever find happiness or love. And that, dear reader, is exactly why you keep reading -- to see if they can sort through their respective tangled messes, emotions, expectations, and dreams to find something that they both long for -- love and acceptance.