This is the story of Merrys' escape from her parents stuffy Victorian superficial respectability into the world of Nic Craven a brilliant and unconventional artist with a few secrets of his own. Merry has gone to him to create a scandle that will finally stop her parents attempts to marry her off, so that she can live her life the way she wants. Nic's a free spirit, a rake who thinks he's incapable of love. The two of them are fantastic together, they have their flaws and it may not be laugh out load funny but it did make me grin - a lot, they are really lovable characters. Also the sex is really HOT - if you don't like your sex honest and not hedged in by fluffy euphemisms DON'T get this book, some of the descriptions are so down to earth explicit they could grace a manual on 'improving your relationship'.
Merry Vance has no interest in marriage, in relinquishing herself to a mere man just because it is expected. But her family is putting the pressure on, so Merry concocts a plan to ruin her reputation by allowing herself to be painted by Nicolas Craven, the hot artist of the moment in London. Nicholas is very taken with Merry’s attractions, and is in fact eager to paint her. Merry deceives him by posing as a servant, and he in turn is taken by her unaware beauty and charm. The two soon realise their attraction for one another, and act upon it. For each it starts out as a temporary thing, but when Merry finally has the opportunity she had been working towards, she finds she cannot simply walk away from Nicholas. Together they go to Vience, city of lovers. But Nicholas still does not know the truth, and in fact he is hiding something himself… I enjoyed that Merry takes control of her situation here. She comes under considerable pressure and in fact blackmail from her family, and unusually for the time (considering her station) she does not bend to their wishes, but comes up with her own plan, takes action and then also takes responsibility for the consequences. Nicholas is more a product of the time, but is nevertheless an engaging central male character, with his own strengths and weaknesses, and provides the opportunity for Merry to blossom into the person he uniquely perceived her as being from the outset. Taking the romance outside of London was also different. The lifestyle Nicolas leads in Venice is not a particularly attractive one, but it is this section that leads to the epiphany for both characters independently as well as for the structure of the story as a whole. The sensuality sizzled, the characters are unique and distinctive, and altogether I found the book to be something more than the standard Regency Romance.