Fleeing London after an argument with a spiteful aunt, Gabriel, the Earl of Sherrington, runs across a woman stranded at a burned out coaching inn. Despite his inclination to ignore her and keep moving, something about Miss Verity Jolliffe's straightfoward request and lack of feminine wiles compels him to drive her the short distance to her family's home. After a lengthy discussion of sheep, they arrive at her family's modest home, where Gabriel discovers an ill-tempered family to rival his own. Upon picking her up for their return trip, he asks her why she should go to the trouble of caring for such a bunch of ungracious louts, as they'll certainly never mend their ways. When she explains that love is not given with the expectation of getting something in return, or with the aim of changing a loved one's ways, Gabriel has an idea. Marrying Verity would net him the perfect wife. She doesn't natter on about fashions or gossip and by her own admission she'd never try to manipulate him with her love. He resolves to court her when they reach London. He'll turn up the charm, make her love him and get both the perfect wife and revenge on his distasteful heir apparent in one fell swoopWhile I guess it was just another jaded rake seeks biddable miss regency, I really liked the characters. Gabriel was an arrogant alpha, which I normally despise, but I found him completely likeable. Something about his brusque, brutal honesty endeared him to me. Sure he was domineering and demanding, but he was pretty clear about it. He says to himself that he's deceiving Verity, but I'd hardly rate "being a bit nicer than usual while courting a girl I fully intend to marry" as a grand deception. He's pretty much himself - a forceful personality who plays to win - from the start. All he leaves out is why he's courting Verity. So while he may not have initially been motivated by love, he's still not planning a bait and switch. He can tell himself he's a callous businessman just trying to close a deal, but only a man totally smitten gifts a heirloom cookbook to a woman who's said she loves managing a household.For her part, Verity rather likes the big jerk just the way he is. I should have thought her a Pollyanna doormat for how she just took her family's ill treatment of her in stride. Somehow, she managed to look strong doing it. I'd guess it's because she didn't excuse their behavior or let it alter how she looked at herself. They were boorish, but they were her family, and 26 year old spinsters don't get a lot of options in the housing department. It made sense that she'd be attracted to the demanding but forthright Gabriel. After years of being manipulated by her family's false smiles and hollow praise as though she were some half-wit, she finds his open demands quite refreshing. When he also treats her like an actualized person by grumpily urging her to stand up to her family and stop being so damn meek, she's a goner. They make a fine pair - he the hard-nosed power broker and she the quietly determined peace maker. I couldn't help but enjoy the book, well-worn premise or not.