Heroine: Kate, a Lady's maid/servant/sister-in-law (it's complicated...read on!)
Hero: Garrett, Duke of Calton
Time period: 19th century England
(Possible spoilers! Be warned!)
Ms. Haymore creates Kate to be a heroine who is much like a flower. She is fully of hidden energy and quirkiness at the beginning, but in the end, grows into a beautiful and charming bloom. Readers enter the story meeting Kate as a lady's maid to her sister-in-law, Rebecca. The story is complicated at first, full of secrets. Her sister-in-law does not realize she is related in any way to Kate and for the sake of Kate's family, Kate keeps it a secret.
Garrett is Kate's love interest and is also Kate's sister-in-law's brother...so that would make him her brother-in-law, correct? Well, in any case, Garrett is out for revenge against Kate's brother for running off with his sister, Rebecca.
When Garrett and Kate first meet, it is due to Kate spying on Garrett who is swimming in a lake nearby Rebecca's residence. Kate is enchanted and mesmerized by Garrett. In turn, when Garrett meets Kate, he feels the same, though is less obvious in his attraction. Kate convinces Garrett to take her and they enjoy a romantic tumble. Much later, to Garrett's chagrin, he finds out that she is sister of his enemy. (Oh Romeo...)
I actually enjoyed the fact that the sexual interlude between the two main characters starts off early in the book. It leaves plenty of room for plot and further romance. Also, it shows that the author doesn't need to use that device to lure readers further into the book. Instead, the author uses actual plot and character development.
I apologize. Back to the story!
Eventually Kate learns the truth about her brother's marriage, the truth of her brother's character (which is bad) and Garrett's involvement. She is torn between the possible love of her life and familial obligations.
She ends up choosing to side with Garrett, which I agree with considering her brother tricked Rebecca into marrying him for money, her mother plays favoritism and loves her brother more than anyone else, and the reason Kate is maid to her sister-in-law is due to more trickery and lies from her brother. Additionally, Kate's brother has no love for Kate at all (ever) and uses her to his advantage as much as he can, no matter what the risk to Kate's life/virtue.
The first half of this book ends with the death of Kate's brother and Kate joining Rebecca and Garrett in London. The rest of the book involves Kate adjusting to society and the ton and attempting to find a husband with the help of Rebecca and Garrett.
As a whole, I loved the characters, writing, story, and pacing of the book. Kate knows her place in the world yet is still a courageous, outspoken, and spunky character. In the past, I have read books with headstrong female heroines who foolishly speak out with no real reason, other than just being defiant and standing out. That really doesn't help depict females as a strong counterpart to males. It just makes females look stupid and want attention. Whereas Kate is actually intelligent and thinks things through before speaking. Kate is definitely not a dim-witted, loud obnoxious character and I give kudos to Ms. Haymore for creating such an interesting and refreshing character.