The premise of this story is interesting, and I fully anticipated being engaged to the story, but I'm afraid its delivery is rather mediocre, mainly due to problems in characterization.
Victoria Bretton is ostracized by the ton due to her close and frequent association with her aunt and uncle, who, despite possessing great wealth, are shunned by the high sticklers of society for being owners of the Gryphon Theatre. Nothing in their past had helped their reputation either, since her uncle Theodore used to be an actor, and her aunt an actress who abandoned her husband for the love of her life. Victoria, however, shares a love of the theater unlike her mother and sister, who are the typical marriage-minded mother and chit seeking to make a good match. So instead of devoting herself to attracting suitors, Victoria indulges in her love of writing plays under the pseudonym Valentine Lawe, who had become one of London's foremost playwrights. On the opening night of her new play, she unexpectedly catches the eye of Alistair Devin, whose family despises the theatre due to his brother's scandalous marriage to an actress. And thus, as Alistair becomes more intrigued by the opinionated and unique Victoria, she has to take greater measure to prevent the exposure of her alter ego.
As heroines go, I rather liked Victoria. Despite being forthright and outspoken, traits not often condoned by society, she is sensible and intelligent and knows to shows the responsibility of writing plays in secret to maintain her family's reputation. Each additional chance meeting with Alistair confuses her, as she had put aside marriage for the freedom and joy of writing, but is now questioning her growing attraction to a man unsuitable as a match for us. From their first conversation, Victoria is shown to have a great deal of loyalty and honor, as she pushes away Alistair for his own good, knowing their respective station and reputation can never match. In response, Alistair grows fonder of this mysterious beauty, and more actively pursues her. Up until this point, the story had a nice flow and pacing, with pleasant interactions between the characters.
Unfortunately, Alistair turns out to be quite the jerk despite Mrs. Whitiker's attempt to add a depth to him by giving him philanthropic ideals as the founder of an orphanage. His insistence on not being lied to gets annoying as Victoria's self-conflicts waver between loyalty to her family and telling Alistair her other identity. But when she bares her heart and tells him the truth, he stubbornly won't believe it! For a quarter of the book he suffers under self-imposed guilt and anger, unable to decide whether to forgive Victoria (when he cannot even view things from her perspective) or to forget his feelings entirely. All the while, Victoria continues to suffer from his callous treatment of her feelings, and thinking fondly of him no less.
Finally, Alistair believe Victoria in the last pages of the book, after her fourth attempt to clarify the identity of Valentine Lawe.
Frankly, a near quarter of the book could be spared if Alistair just believed in the woman he claimed to love. After everything he's seen of her personality, it confounds me why he couldn't let go of his own bruised ego and mend their relationship. Ultimately, my frustrations at the hero ruined the initial pleasure I had in reading this, but I am eager to read the sequel No Role For A Gentleman if just to see how the continued story plays out.