The base romance in this novel was terrific. Unfortunately it was cut- in by a lot of side topics that had nothing to do with the main couple. I'd say they could have cut out about 1/2 of the pages and it would have been a perfect story.
Alex, the heroine, spends a lot of time dressed as a man in an effort to learn about the seedy side of London. These pages were pretty boring. I skimmed through them a lot.
Nick, the hero, joins the army about 1/3 of the way though the book. Part of this topic was intense and endearing, such as a point where he is trying to swim upstream in a raging river and he uses his memories of Alex as his means of strength to make it across. Other parts were boring facts about the war that had no significance for the main characters.
The love between the main couple is beautiful, but unfortunately we don't get to enjoy it much. There are only a few pages out of the whole book where the two of them are happily together. Still, their devotion keeps you going.
The Basic Story:
Alexandra and her brother Rupert grew up as best friends with the kids in the plantation next to their own. Those kids were twin brothers, Christopher and Nicholas. Growing up with three boys made Alex a tomboy. She wanted to do everything the boys could do. Now as a 17 year old, she wants all of the same privileges the men have. Most of all, she wants to be a writer. Because women are not respected in the literary field, Alex starts dressing as a man. She uses her disguises to gain access to the many "gentleman's clubs" in London. These clubs will provide her with information for her newspaper articles.
Alex and Rupert were raised by their grandmother. The twins, by their dad. Alex's grandma and the twins dad have arranged a marriage between Alex and the older twin, Christopher. However Alex is deeply in love with Nicholas, the younger twin. Nick loves her back, but wants her to have the family title and lands that will be inherited by his brother. Nick feels he will be robbing her of those things if he marries her himself. In an effort to put distance between them, Nick joins the army.
Over the next year, Nick fights for his country while Alex works to prevent her grandma from losing her home. Nick and Alex dream of each other every night. Nick uses his love for her to survive the harsh realities of war. Alex has no choice but to take two secret jobs. She is a reporter and a stripper. In society, she is a lady. When she is not working, she is being courted by societies most sought after bachelors. Still, she can never completely get over Nick.
When Nick returns from the war, he finds that his older brother has squandered away the family fortune. He is even about to lose the family estate. Nick takes every risk necessary to fix his brother's mistakes. He even pretends to be Christopher in order to seduce Alex into agreeing to marry his older twin. Yet when Nick discovers how deeply Christopher's dishonorable schemes go, he gives up on trying to hide his own feelings for Alex. He claims her for himself. He also can't let his brother lose any more of the family's property. He will do some scheming of his own to take control of the money, the title, and the estate.
Basically, add a lot of padding to this story and you have the complete book. Some parts were very romantic, others were frustrating. (Such as watching Nick poor his heart out to Alex, while pretending to be his brother, to help seal an engagement between them. Ugh! We want to see him fight for her, not give her away to his worthless brother!)
The characters were interesting and the core story good. Those things kept me reading to the end of the book.