Her Secret Lover by Sara Bennett
Antoinette Dupre is the heiress to a vast fortune now that her parents have died and this has made her victim number one for Lord Appleby. Despite outward appearances Appleby is broke and in desperate need of money so he tricks Antoinette into coming to London, compromises her, and when she refuses his offer of marriage he packs off to his new estate, Wexmoor Manor. Unfortunately Gabriel Langley is the rightful owner of the manor, but his father had been forced to hand over the deed when Appleby had threatened to reveal past indescretions about Gabriel's mother. antoinette has on her person a letter containing information about Appleby's deceased wife, but Gabriel is convinced the letter has information regarding his mother and is determined to take possession of it through any means necessary. Any means necessary means disguising himself as a highwayman, holding up her coach, and searching her person.
Antoinette and Gabriel are both immediately taken with each other despite Gabriel thinking that Antoinette is Appleby's mistress and Antoinette thinking Gabriel has been sent by Appleby to divest her of the incriminating evidence against him. Sexing ensues with neither side giving in which means neither side ever tells the other the truth about themselves (until the very end obviously). Our little mystery officially starts when Gabriel's childhood sweetheart sends a missive to Appleby informing him that his mistress is sleeping with Gabriel. Gabriel and Antoinette flee to try to figure out a way to stop Appleby from taking Wexmoor Manor and forcing Antoinette (or her sister) from marrying him. But when they're real identities are discovered the two are convinced they can't trust the other and they continue to question the possibility of a happily ever after.
I mention the sex first because there was a lot of it and it was all really good and I didn't have to wait 'til I was nearly done with the book to read them all crammed together. Unfortunately it seemed to be crammed in the first 2/3 of the book and the last third was dedicated to trying to escape Appleby's clutches. The villain plot was certainly interesting, obviously integral to the story and the romance between the two protagonists, and ended on a nice little twist ending even if it got a little far fetched by involving Prince Albert. The angst was also pretty nice as Gabriel realized he was falling in love with a woman whom he believed was sleeping with his mortal enemy and there were some pretty cool "Tell me I'm the best you've ever had," scenes if that's anyone's cup of tea. And although the "I Love You's" didn't flow until the end of the book Gabriel realized early on, and wasn't scared to admit to himself, that he wanted Antoinette as something more than a bedmate.
The only part of the book that I can think of that irritated me was that their true identities were not revealed to each other until 2/3 of the way through the book and it did seem like so much of their arguments, confusion, and loathing could have been avoided if either one of them had bothered to just tell the truth. The two were on the same side they just spent the majority of the book not knowing it and thus disliking each other and themselves for the attraction they felt. The periphery characters were great, even Mary the jilted childhood sweetheart and especially Gabriel's parents who were madly in love but not all the annoying love birds that populate romance novels (normally because the author has written about them in a previous book).
Rating: Not perfect and not the most intriguing of dialogue, but far from bland and definitely an interesting and sexy read.