I honestly have to say that this story surprised me on nearly every turn. Just when I thought I had the storyline predicted that I knew what was going to happen next, Ms. Elliot changed it up on me, and it was wonderful! At first glance, this is a story that has been written a thousand times. Dissolute wastrel reformed by an innocent, spirited girl, skeletons in the closet keeping them from their ultimate happiness, but the bravery of our reformed hero saves the day. This story starts on that track, but then avoids predictability by doing the unexpected. I loved it!
Celeste and Ranulf were excellent characters. Ranulf is your typical society rake with a secret talent. On the surface, he is totally fixated on the fairer sex, but he is burdened with issues that truly show the depth of his character behind the mask. However, as we get to know him better, we are given glimpses into his past, and elements in his private life that show him to be a truly noble hero, even willing to sacrifice his own life to save the woman he loves. Celeste was his perfect match, a woman who was not afraid to take life by the horns and live it for all it was worth, but who had her own issues to deal with. Already burned by one society rake, she is reluctant to trust Ranulf or her attraction to him.
Our villain in this story also avoids the trap of predictability. On first glance, it seems to be a case of been there, read that, but surprise! It isn't that way at all! Without giving away all the good parts, it was wonderful to read a story where the heroine tried to save the hero, but was sensible about it.
Will Celeste and Ranulf be able to work through their issues, or will the danger hovering in the background swallow their new love? Will Celeste realize that she can trust Ranulf with everything, even her tender heart? You will have fun finding out!
After publicly humiliating a suitor, Celeste Armitage is sent from the ton in disgrace. Exiled to the country she discovers a sketch book of nude studies and is shaken to discover the artist is her hostess’s eldest son, Ranulf Charing, Lord Cadnum. This darkly cynical lord is exactly the sort of dissipated rogue she most despises – and yet her blood heats at the thought of him!
Ranulf Charing, Lord Cadnum is being blackmailed over his late brother’s debts. When visiting his mother, he discovers her new companion is a woman of refreshing perception and starts to fall in love. Then the jealous fury of the blackmailer is unleashed and Cadnum must cast Celeste aside in order to protect her. However, in underestimating her resolve to clear his name – Cadnum places his true love in mortal danger…
[First published by Solstice in 2010. This book has been re-edited and re-formatted for the independent, 2013 edition.]