Helen is likable and quite bold in a number of scenes. I like how she absolutely refused Tristan (for a time being) unlike many "virginal" heroines who predictably swoon and surrender after little persuasion.
The author tends to use plot elements similar to her other books, but it is Regency Era England, and women had few options in life, so I suppose the plot can only go in so many directions. To her credit, the book does have a few creative twists.
The middle was a little slow but the last third of the book was fantastic, filled with heart retching betrayal. It was almost painful to read and imagine Helen and her sisters' situation becoming worse and worse by the chapter.
I thought Tristan should have stood up for Helen a little more during the scene when he and Maude confronted Helen to explain what her fate would be. He seemed to stand by and let Maude verbally attack and humiliate Helen. The one thing I remember and like about the previous book in the series, Promise of Pleasure, the hero tended to stick up for the heroine against the cruel remarks made by the rivals in the house.
That's a minor complaint. Tristan's character was believable, although unlikable at times. In the end, he makes up for it, and I was smiling when I read their happy ending.
The secondary romance is OK. I thought Jane was naive to the point of being a little annoying. She lacked the depth Helen had. Michael was fun. He went from being a vain, notorious flirt to growing up into a real man. He had more courage than Tristan at times.
I love Cheryl Holt and will keep reading. I disagree about her books getting worse. The characters in her newer books are often more balanced instead of being so extreme (either good or bad) yet still bold enough to get into plenty of trouble :-)