Lily Langdon has known Edward Wallis, Earl of Whitby, since she was a child as he is her brother's best friend and despite the age difference they were always "friends" and he treated her well. While Lily has come to notice Whitby as more than just her older brother's friend, he has yet to notice that Lily has become a woman. She has harbored these feelings for him for years and has been scared of her feelings since believing herself in love when she was younger and having her heart broken. When Whitby shows up at her brother's house party she tries to flirt with him but he is obviously sick and spends his time drinking, sleeping, and being generally lethargic. Eventually a doctor is summoned and everyone believes that he has Hodgkins disease and he is worried that his dissolute cousin, Magnus, will inherit the title. Lily decides to gather her pride and make Whitby an offer; to marry her and produce an heir so that his cousin doesn't inherit.
He is at first reluctant, but he is finally starting to see Lily as a woman, and she claims that even though he is dying she wants to be with him at least once in order to be happy. She says that even if he lives she will not regret their marriage and wants whatever he can offer. Sure enough the two get married and set to making the heir but are shocked when the doctor comes back and says he is not going to die- he has an unknown illness that is going away. Lily is scared that Whitby will regret having married her and realizes she made a mistake when she told him she could live without hislove. Whitby does indeed have second thoughts, but they revolve around Lily's newly discovered pregnancy and his fear that she will die in labor as his mother did. When she comes down with the same illness as he had and her pregnancy does not go smoothly, Whitby realizes he may loose her and he is in love with her.
Another story where one of the characters has been in love with another for years and has been hiding his/her emotion. While not exactly new in romance novels I think this plot can be so much fun in romances and done really well and it was done respectably here. I really felt as though Lily was so young in this novel and really did not learn all that much from her earlier mistake. She was in love with Whitby for reasons I could not really figure out and was risking a whole hell of a lot to be with a man who had spent the last few years drunk and whoring his way around England. Whitby apparently feels some sort of connection to Lily from back when she was a child, as if they were kindred spirits, but I did not really buy this and thought it was a long shot for creating feelings between two adults. Really there could have been a whole lot more of them getting to know each other as adults and really falling in love.
One thing that does exist between them in spades is attraction and there is plenty of sex and it is quite hot really. I was also incredibly impressed with the medical research the author obviously did for the illness that strikes Lily and Whitby and for Lily's pregnancy. At the time I thought she was pulling our leg and was just making stuff up but in her afterward she details how she was really historically accurate. A nice little lesson in late 19th century medicine. One of my favorite characters is Lily's mother, Marion, who had been a dutiful daughter and a dutiful wife to a cruel man so she could not understand how or why her daughter was being so defiant and running off with this man that no one approved of. MacLean's writing is a very fast read in a book that could have used more humor and, especially given the unrequitted love story, a little bit more angst and brooding from both characters.
Rating: The lovestory between the two was a tad unbelievable but it was entertaining and interesting to an extent.