This has to be Balogh's best book I have read so far. An outstanding story which kept me literately on the edge of my seat. Its many unexpected twists and turns are so addictive that I felt quite bereaved after 399 pages.
This is the tale of the Duke of Ridgeway, Adam Kent, and Fleur Hamilton. Their encounter in London is unexpected, and after one night it is agreed they will never see one another again. One night was more than enough to cause deep rifts and pain. But faith has other things in mind for them. Adam's secretary hires Fleur as a governess for his daughter. Luckily for Fleur, Adam is often from home, and it is weeks before she finds herself faced with him again. In the mean time, she has managed to find some peace and happiness in her new home and put her past somewhat behind. But then Adam returns home with in his wake a ton of visitors for his wife's party. After a few days, his half-brother also joins the party, along with a friend. Within a week, events unravel themselves quickly, and Fleur sees no other choice than flee once more. The Duke is left behind to wonder about his employee and makes inquiries to find out the truth amidst major family problems. But then he faces the biggest problem of all: will he go after Fleur, whom he came to love, or does he attempt to rescue his marriage? In other words, go for happiness and love, or be duty-bound and safe his reputation? Go buy the book to find out more...
What I particularly loved about this book was the character development. Where many books kill the characterisation in order to solve all problems, Balogh managed to set the heroes just where they needed to be to solve everything and stay true to themselves. Adam is a first born son, and heir to one of the largest estates in England. Yet he decided to go off to fight for his country. It is there that he got scarred for life all over his left body. He is very embarrassed about his looks and beliefs himself to be ugly. In his absence from home, many things happened, including his brother nearly ruining his estates and life. When he finally returns, he marries the woman intended for him, but it is more a marriage of convenience than actual love. Adam feels it is his duty to take care of her and protect her. She sees him as the villain who destroyed her happy life. As a Duke, Adam has a lot of influence, but he not much interested in using it. He is good for all his servants. But after five years of living without love and rejection, he wants more of life. But with his duties as a Duke and nobleman of England he knows it is impossible for him to get that. Enter Fleur. She is born as a Lady, but one little mistake in trying to protect herself has major consequences she rather not faces. She flees to London, where she hits rock bottom before meeting Adam and getting a job as his governess. Having fallen from grace, she has very little faith in herself and lives in constant terror of being caught up with her past. In the class room with her student she finally becomes herself again. And then Adam grants her some privileges, such as playing the pianoforte. Slowly, she becomes her independent self again and nightmares turn into dreams. Until she flees again, not trusting Adam enough and still being scared of him.
The book is packed with adventure, mystery, romance and more. Balogh even manages to include some humour. It is very fast paced and wonderfully built. Every little detail means something. A very excellent Regency Romance novel. It is that I had to go to work and therefore catch some sleep; otherwise I would have read the book in one sitting. I am very glad I have some of her books unread waiting on my bookshelf.
The only bad thing about the book that I can find is the spelling... it keeps on jarring me that a story set in England of the 18th and/or 19th century uses the spelling of the US. But it is so minor that it cannot spoil my love for this fantastic book.