A huge, inarticulate guy who's shy with women -- how could I not want to read more about Hal Waterman, after he was introduced in [b:The Wedding Gamble|1174864|The Wedding Gamble|Julia Justiss|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1181644918s/1174864.jpg|1162631]? Hal is instantly smitten with his best friend Nicky's new sister-in-law, Elizabeth -- which is why he instantly runs. The son of a noted ton beauty, he has no interest in having yet another selfish, demanding woman in his life. Besides, such an exquisite woman could never be interested in a big lout like him.But when Elizabeth is widowed seven years later, at a time when Nicky's entire family is abroad, Hall feels obligated to offer his assistance. He finds her sorely in need of help, since she's been cherished and protected her entire married life -- including being protected from the fact that her husband was terrible at managing money. Hal takes on the role of helpful family friend while sternly admonishing himself not to consider being anything more. He has no idea that Elizabeth's artist's eye is fascinated by his unfashionably muscular body and handsome profile.This book is all about the characters -- in fact, every time the plot seems to be going to a possibly exciting or scary place, the issue is resolved fairly quickly. Being an angst-whore, I thought that a bit of a shame, but it's a charming story regardless, because Hal and Elizabeth are worthy characters going through interesting changes.. Everything we see about Hal shows how intelligent, competent and admirable he is -- including a touching scene in which his warmhearted mistress urges him to leave her and follow his heart, despite the fact that she obviously adores him. Trust Hal to have a sweet, genuine mistress! (And I wish the poor woman had her own happy ending.) Hal might seem almost too perfect if it weren't for his genuine trouble with speaking. Because of a childhood stutter, he's learned to concentrate on the most important idea he's trying to convey; his elliptical speech drops most articles and pronouns in a way that can make him appear cloddish. He's also generally at a loss in an argument, because his brain outruns his ability to speak. Elizabeth's character is also sympathetic -- she's not a fool, but she's been sheltered for so long, she has trouble finding her feet or knowing who to trust. One of the lovely things about the story is that though Hal is only to happy to advise and protect Elizabeth, he also respects her talent and encourages her to live a life beyond being a proper, helpless lady. Elizabeth blossoms to the point that, in the end, she seduces him -- pretending to want to paint him, she persuades him to strip. I was charmed by how the ladylike Elizabeth is so entranced by Hal's body, she can't stop herself from staring and touching. It also shows how she's gained confidence in her ability to make decisions, and learned to trust her own feelings.My gut is sort of leaning towards a 3 1/2 rating for this because of the overall lack of tension, but I'm going with a 4 because it's so unusual and thematically interesting.