Annabel has always known she was beautiful. As she was growing up, she watched her father spend all the family money on his stables, horses and the racetrack. Since she has a head for numbers, she takes the household accounts in hand, and manages the financial aspect of her family's life. One coin could make the difference between eating meat or having beans for dinner. After this childhood, she, naturally, has a fear of poverty and decides that her beauty will compensate for a lack of a real dowry.
As the book opens, Annabel is on the verge of accepting a marriage proposal from exactly the man she is looking for - a titled, pleasant, wealthy man with whom she can have a pleasant, worry-free life. She meets Lord Ardmore - a Scottish earl that is embodiment of everything she DOESN'T want in a future husband. Although intrigued by him and attracted to him, she does not even consider him as a potential suitor and rejects his offer of marriage and his pursuit of her.
Her sister, Imogen, has other plans for Lord Ardmore. Imogen, who is recovering from the death of her young husband, decides to have an affair with Lord Ardmore (without consulting him first!!) and this decision sparks a series of events that lead to Annabel's reputation being damaged. Lord Ardmore immediately proposes marriage, because of the scandal, and she has no choice but to accept. Even though Lord Ardmore has a special license that will allow them to marry immediately, he asks her to wait until they reach Scotland because he there is a specific monk that Ardmore wants to perform their marriage ceremony. She agrees to this and the rest of the story details how they fall in love (and lust) with each other as they travel to Scotland (without being really married) and what they must each overcome to have a happy life together.
The book is wonderfully written, with great secondary characters. The great thing about Eloisa James' novels is that the dialogue and story just flows... you can feel the tension in the air when Imogen and Annabel fight. You can feel how sad the sisters are when gathered around together before Annabel leaves for Scotland. The chemistry between Ardmore and Annabel sizzles (love scenes = steamy hot), as does the chemistry between some of the secondary characters. Josie, the youngest sister, steals every scene she's in - her dialogues are down-right hilarious and I'm really looking forward to her story now (which will be the last one.) Those you that have followed the (mis)adventures of the Earl of Mayne will be happy to see him figure prominently in this book.
I've given it 5 stars because I'm rounding up -- I would really give it 4 1/2 stars. The only reason I would deduct half a star is because, sometimes, James veers too much away from the main characters. As a result, I felt that Annabel and Ardmore were not as well sketched out as they could have been, and that their courtship (during the journey to Scotland) was a bit rushed. The book is set up so every other chapter is about Imogen, and that can be distracting at times because it seems that the book is focusing on Imogen more than Annabel.
Other than that tiny gripe, it is a flawless book & very highly recommended. If you haven't, though, you should read "Much Ado About You" before reading this book. "Kiss Me, Annabel" works as a stand-alone read, but would be more enjoyable, I think, if read as part of the series.