When reading the blurb of this book, I was led to believe that the hero and heroine of the story are Sophia and Francis. And indeed the story starts off with the lovely young Sophia claiming that she has no plans to marry, ever, with the gorgeous young Francis looking on.
However, as the story goes on, Sophia and Francis are relegated to the background as the B-story. The main couple in the book, and indeed the most compelling and interesting story, is that of Sophia's parents, Marcus and Olivia.
Marcus and Olivia married young (she was only 17 and he not much older). They were both virgins and they were madly, passionately, devotedly in love. But as the story begins, they have been estranged for 14 years, having not seen each other in that time and only sharing time with their young daughter very much as modern day divorced couples do. The reason for their estrangement is revealed in the course of the story. But it is clear that neither one of them is very happy.
Sophia's proclamation about never marrying is all because of the state of her parents' marriage. They are her example of how marriage is and she is loathe to enter into such a relationship herself. At the goading of her friends she comes upon a scheme to throw her parents into each other's company in the hopes they will reconcile. To that effect, she and Francis enter into a fake betrothal with the hopes that the ensuing house party and arrangements will force her parents into close proximity for an extended time where they will realize they really should be together again.
Of course things don't work out exactly as planned. Sophia and Frances, who have planned this largely as a lark and who assure themselves they can extricate themselves from this fake engagement whenever they need do, completely underestimate how quickly and totally things can spiral out of their control.
And Olivia and Marcus don't easily fall into Sophia's plans either. These are two people who are nursing hurts (and a very deep and overwhelming love) who simply can't communicate with each other.
I must say I found the story of Olivia and Marcus compulsively readable. It is a testament to Balogh's skill that she takes my most hated of all story cliche's, the Grand Misunderstanding, and makes it work somehow. Although to be fair, with Olivia and Marcus it isn't really a misunderstanding. In their case each is exactly aware of why the other feels as he/she does. Their problem is they simply don't know how to communicate. And as Balogh so wonderfully illustrates, they didn't know how to be married. They were so much in love and had placed each other on such high pedestals that they were unprepared for coping with any adversity. Their struggle to come back together is the meat of the book.
And if Olivia and Marcus are the meat, then Sophia and Francis are the sweet trifle. They too have a romance though they don't really realize it or recognize it. They are played for much needed comic relief with their bickering and constant harassment of each other. Sophia is sweet in her concern for her parents, but I must admit I really liked Francis. He was very witty and had some really fun, laugh-out-loud lines.