Emily and the Dark Angel is one of Jo Beverley's earliest books, and is part of a series which began with Lord Wraybourne's Betrothal, and continued with The Stanforth Secret and The Stolen Bride. Not knowing that these books were linked, I read Emily... before Stanforth; I hope that by listing the order here other readers may be helped.
Emily is a spinster, in her late twenties, who has been looking after her invalid father for many years. Since her soldier brother was posted as missing, believed killed in combat, she has also been running the family estate. Her home is on the edge of Melton Mowbray, a very popular area with the hunting fraternity, situated as it is in the center of several hunts.
Piers Verderan, known as Ver to his friends, is there for the hunting, and because he's just inherited the estate next to Emily's. They meet first just as he's been ejected from his (ex-)mistress's establishment, colliding with Emily just as they're both showered in poudre des violettes. Ver offers to escort Emily to her destination; since the collision has damaged the heel of her boot. She doesn't trust him; and why should she? He's called the Dark Angel for a reason; he is likened to Lucifer. Stories about his criminality and dastardliness abound. And yet he is kind, he comes to her rescue on several occasions, and he makes her feel good about herself for the first time in many years. He makes her feel desirable. He tells her that he loves her.
But can Emily believe a man who has a reputation for breaking hearts and never remaining faithful to a woman; a man who is reputed to have abandoned his own mother to a life of poverty? Can she be brave enough to listen to her heart above the warnings of her brain and members of her family?
From the back of the bk:
Twenty-six and still unclaimed.... Practical,capable and utterly unromantic, Emily Grantwich is spinsterhood personified. But her prim world goes scandalously atilt when she is inadvertenly doused with perfumed powder hurled by a disreputable lady at the handsomest man Emily has ever seen. He is Piers Verderan, the notorious "Dark Angel-- a dangerous rake shunned by proper society for his volatile temperament and ability to set even the most sensible lady's head spinning. Emily knows she should reject Verderan's unwanted attentions, but her heart urges her on. Is she simply too naive to recognize as fraudulent his heartfelt declarations of love?