One Week as Lovers by Victoria Dahl
Nicholas Cantry, the Viscount Lancaster, knows that he must marry quickly to a wealthy woman in order to save his family from immense debts and he also knows that the woman he has engaged himself too likes him no more than he likes her. When Nicholas is informed that his childhood friend, Cynthia Merrithorpe, has died, he rushes to his country estate to gain closure and to escape his life in London. He is horrified to learn that Cynthia committed suicide after her step-father basically sold her to Richmond, a man well known for his very rough sexual proclivities, and a man that Nick himself has a very unfortunate history with. But soon Nick discovers that the "ghost" haunting his house, is not a ghost, but is jut Cynthia pretending to be dead while she searches the cliffs for a long buried pirate's treasure. When Nick had left Cynthia had been devastated as she had spun girlish fantasies and imagined the two of them getting married. At first she is upset that Nick's appearance will interfere in her treasure hunt, but it is not long before he is helping her and the two find themselves getting much closer.
Nick has lived his life in London pretending to be charming and happy while hiding desperate secrets; one from his past and one that involves his sexual preferences. Nick knows he has to keep his hands off of Cynthia because he graves "rough" sex, and by that he likes to tie up his partner. When he discovers Cynthia is not disgusted by this, in fact seems to enjoy it as much as he does, it paves the way for him to reveal some of his demons to her. He wants to marry her but the two know that financial security is a very large obstacle in their path and with their two family's immense debt a happy marriage is difficult to imagine. Everything depends on finding the treasure and even if that long shot pans out there is always the problem of Richmond, the evil fiance who is far more dangerous than Cynthia imagines. When Cynthia's alive-ness comes out in the open Nick takes Cynthia and flees to the Duke of Somerhart's esate to keep Cynthia safe until her birthday, but Richmond follows them and Nick has to take care of the spector's that haunt him and secure his future with Cynthia.
First I will start with how much I absolutely loved these characters. Cynthia was completely level-headed, and no the searching for pirate's treasure did not detract from her wonderful-ness. She was realistic when it came to her future, she was quite funny, and I liked that she was an artist but was actually pretty bad at it. I don't like when a heroine has some supernaturally amazing talent and it was just so cool that her drawings were so awful. Nick was a great character because he underwent some great changes throughout the book and they were written so well and weren't entirely based on the love of a great woman. She helped significantly, which was great for the romantic development, but he really did face down his own demons and learned to accept himself and his past. And it was nice that his "haunted" past was really haunted, although what happened to him is certainly disturbing. The sex in this novel was super hot, like WOW!, and because some of his "issues" with himself stem from his sexual proclivities it was both great for steam and contributed to their relationship in an immense way and helped Nick learn that his desires aren't dirty and awful.
This book managed to be both heavy, in the sense that it dealt with some quite intense issues and emotions, and super fun, in that Cynthia especially is super funny and just full of some little witty sayings. From pretending to be a ghost to making Nick blush after sex Cynthia was just so great. The pirate treasure search ended up contributing the story immensely, especially as it (spoiler alert) did not end up solving their problems. If it had I would have been very let down, but Dahl was great at having the character's solve through their problems in a manner not best assigned to fairy tales. Another thing I liked about this book was that Nick ended up doing something that other heroes are too "noble" to do. It's another spoiler, and while it might not have been noble, it certainly needed to be done and was another point in Nick's, and the book's, favor. The entire ending in general just sums up the book so well as both characters take charge of their lives, even if it is not in the most "respectable" way imaginable, work through their issues, and work together to ensure that their future together is happy.
Rating: Absolutely loved this book. It was fun, intense, sexy, and featured a great plot, great characters, and great romantic development.