maybe i made a mistake by reading this one so soon after reading ashworth's even better book, DUKE OF SIN. maybe i placed too high an expectation on this one for the very same reason. either way, this book ended up being a disappointment.
don't get me wrong, ashworth is still gifted in her poetic description of love scenes. they were very sensual here. however, the story itself was so depressing that as a reader, i just couldn't feel the connection between the hero and heroine. in the back of my mind, i kept thinking "it's just a few weeks since his sister died so why isn't he more grief-stricken?" i think because of how easy it was for marcus to shift from feeling grief for his dead sister to feeling lust for his sister's friend, i had a hard time believing he could experience any depth of emotion. it would have been more believable if he had experienced more emotional conflict about this, but he got over the initial guilt a little too quickly.
another strike against this story is the extremely slow pacing of it in the beginning, and i'm not talking about slow in the sense that i was expecting them to hop in the bed early. i'm talking slow in that the dialogue was boring and the movement of the storyline was boring and there was a lack of any significant sexual tension between mary and marcus. by the time the love scenes arrived, i was already counting the pages until the end.
ultimately, there were two things working against this story being a whole lot better: lack of any real character development with either the hero or heroine, no insight into them that would engage the reader into their individual stories, and a mystery plot that was too easy to figure out, so that i was too focused on why it was taking them so long to figure it out. mary allowing the class issue to keep her and marcus apart made no sense to me because she had been behaving outside of class lines for the entire book. i think that was the final straw for me, because her character was rather bland and besides her beauty, i found little reason as to why marcus would fall in love with her.
there were simply too many inconsistencies here for me to recommend this book.