Lord Edmund Waite was everything that Lady Mary Gregg despised in a man. He was lewd, lascivious, mocking---the most notorious and successful rake in the realm. Happily, Mary had nothing to fear from this lord of libertines. A bluestocking like her could never tempt a man whose taste ran to pretty playthings for his pleasures.
How startled Mary was to find herself the object of Lord Waite's determined desires. But even more surprising was her reaction to his shocking advances. How could she remain a lady with this man who knew so well how to make her feel like a woman.
After meeting Lord Edmond Waite in The Trysting Place and Lady Mornington in The Counterfeit Betrothal I couldn't wait to get to their book. I was hoping to find a winner and I wasn't disappointed, this was my favourite book in the trilogy.
Lord Edmond is a rake with a really bad reputation, he is lucky that he is still received by the ton. Lady Mornington is a learned lady who likes to organise literary salons at her home and to spend time with like minded friends to discuss literature and politics. When they are paired up during a visit to Vauxhall Gardens none of them is very entusiastic about the company. Not only that but when they are caught by a thunderstorm that leaves Mary terrified, Edmond finds that the best way to calm her down is though sex. I thought Balogh wrote a powerful and violent scene and for a moment I worried where she was going with this story... They end up spending the night together and on the next day Lord Edmond is determined to make Mary his mistress, while she is quite determined to forget him... and so starts the pursuit.
Mary, a widow, as decided to remarry, she acknowledges she spent a pleasant time in Edmond's arms but she wants a husband not a lover and besides she doesn't think they would suit. They meet at the same events and Edmond even makes an appearance at one of Mary's salons much to the annoyance of her new beau but their relationship is difficult at best.
Edmond finds himself more and more captivated but he doesn't always conform to society rules and when people think the worst of him he can't help but behave according to those expectations. One of the things he has been accused of is the death of his brother and his mother and he acknowledges to Mary that he was indeed responsible. He tries to show her his good side on a one day visit to his aunt and while Mary can't help but feeling that the real Edmond is hidden and might be a lot more honourable and interesting that he lets on she still decides not to accept him. But they do meet again at a house party for his aunt's birthday (that Mary attends with her new fiancé) and when Edmond is confronted with his estranged family it is to Mary that he turns as a friend.
I really loved this story and the fact that both characters start with an idea of the other one that soon will change. Edmond thought Mary was plain and common but after spending time with her he sees her in a whole new light and can't stop thinking about her. Even when he decides not to pursue her anymore to obey her wishes he still thinks about her and decides to change his rakish ways as they give him no more pleasure. Mary thinks he is cold and unfeeling but throughout their relationship sees glimpses of the man behind the mask. Since there are so many mixed signals she takes longer to realise who he is and how she loves him. I also liked that Edmond had a real reason for his self destruction, 15 years seems a long time to be that way but I could accept that it was so. I liked Edmond more than Mary maybe because he seems more human, more fragile, despite his bad behaviour than her, who seemed at times a bit too perfect. Because of whom they are, and how unlikely it seems at times that they will get their happy ending, this was an angsty and poignant story, my favourite kind!