This is the first in a new series by Hawkin called Ask Reeves. Quite the catchy name since it refers to Reeves, the long time butler to the Earl of Rochester.
Tristan Paul Llevanth is the by-blow of the Earl of Rochester. He and his twin brother, Christian had been kept by his mother until she was accused of treason and died in the gallows when they were 10. At that point, with the funds that had been sent from his father dwindling, their tutor sold them as hands onto a ship. Tristan was able to help Christian escape but he was caught and spent his life on the sea. It was there that he made a name for himself and earned the recognition of the crown as he served in the Navy and became a war hero
When the old earl finds himself dying without an heir, he arranges to legitimize his first born sons by bribing the Archbishop to produce false marriage papers. He then send his trusty butler Reeves to find his wayward sons and make sure they are worthy of the Rochester title. He gives the title to Tristan but the fortune that goes with it will pass on to Christian unless Reeves can transform the ex-pirate/war hero into a true gentleman.
After being wounded, Tristan takes residence in a small cottage overseeing the sea. The small cottage has become a refuge of sorts to old sailors that have been wounded and have no other place to go. It's there that he meets Prudence Thistlewaite and her mother.
Prudence who has been widowed for several years is an outcast of society, after her deceased husband convinces some prominent members of society to invest in a proposition that later fails. When society turns their backs on her and her mother, they head off to the country to start a school of deportment for young girls. When her neighbor's livestock (the Capt's sheep) keep trampling into her garden she has to confront the man, but the seed of attraction is planted during each encounter, and that blasted sheep makes their encounters fairly frequent.
Well it seems that the Capt will need a little polishing up and this is where Prudence comes in. She gets recruited to teach Tristan some lessons in comportment so he can dazzle the trustees into giving him his inheritance.
I had never read anything by Karen Hawkins and I must say I was quite impressed with her work. I enjoyed the banter between the hero and heroine and the romance developed nice and slowly. She did not bring a lot of baggage to the relationship. She had loved her first husband but was able to find love again. Tristan was not jaded by his previous experience in love (his love for his brother and mother). His brother had more baggage, although he approached life in a more carefree manner, and so his story (Her Officer and A Gentleman - which comes out in May) should be more complex.