This is one of those simple, adorable stories. It's mostly set in the aptly named Edenbrooke estate, a place I would love to visit, but with a highwayman and a forty thousand pound inheritance hanging in the balance. Basically, it's Jane Austen (time period and character-wise) with a bit more passion/excitement thrown in, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
First, there's the delightful Philip. I absolutely loved his character. He was sweet, funny, and just what Marianne needed. I really liked the way their relationship grew as the book progressed. It wasn't love at first sight. You could really see why these two fell for each other as they spent time together talking and doing things. This book's success is dependent on their relationship, it's success or failure riding on how well we like the way their romance plays out, and it definitely succeeded.
Marianne was an interesting character. She was sweet, naive, fun-loving, and adventurous, with a bad twirling habit when she was happy. She was also, at times, really thick. Mostly I loved her character, and I do understand that she was new to the whole flirting/courtship thing, but there were a few instances that drove me absolutely crazy with how long it took her to figure things out. Despite that, there's something about her I really liked. You couldn't help cheering for her.
In some ways, however, Marianne's sister, Cicely, was one of the best characters. She was full of contradictions, but she came across as completely real and complex. She was shallow but cared for her sister. She was a bit mercenary, overly fashionable and in many ways Marianne's opposite, but for all her faults, she never abandoned her relationship with her sister or how important it was to her, and I really liked that.
All in all, this is a strong 4 stars for me (with the possibility of being bumped half a star higher in the future). It was one of those books that made me immediately go back and read my favorite parts when I was finished with it. Plus, there were a few twists I didn't see coming (which is hard for a book as straight-forward as this one, for the most part, was). It also served as the impetus for a historical/Austenesque reading frenzy, I'm still immeshed in. So if you're looking for a great love story, you need to read this book.