Lady Kristie leaves her husband, Sir Roderick, to seek the help of Lord Payton Murray. She has spent five years with a brute of a man who molests young children and then disposes of them when he has tired of them. When he discovered that she knew his secrets he attempted to drown her in the river. Now Kristie turns to the man she has heard is honorable, despite his many liaisons with married women. She brings along several of the children she has rescued from Roderick's clutches, including young Callum, who had suffered immensely with Roderick and is now determined to help save his lady Kristie and other young children. Payton is initially reluctant to help Kristie, but after he hears what a monster Roderick is, he knows that something must be done to put a stop to the molestation. Their plan is for Kristie and the children to remain in hiding and for Payton to work his magic by spreading rumors throughout the court so that others begin to realize what he is up to.
Unfortunately Kristie is not so good at staying in hiding and she and Callum venture out trying to gather information about what Roderick has been up to. When Gibb and Wattie, Roderick's henchman discover that she is actually alive Roderick goes after her by setting his hounds on his trail. The rumors that have been spreading are taking their toll and he cannot find the children he is used to procuring. When the hounds lead him straight to Payton's door he realizes that his enemies are getting stronger and he must destroy Payton, the children, and Kristie. Payton grows tired of being at court and returns home because he misses Kristie and the children. She is at first reluctant to give into her attraction to him as she is a married woman, despite the marriage never being consummated, but when everyone around her encourages her to give into the love they are both feeling, she cannot hold back her long dormant passion. When Roderick finally makes his move, Kristie and Payton will need all their friends, family, and allies there to help them defeat evil and move on with their lives- with Kristie as a free woman and hopefully Payton's wife.
Kristie and Payton are certainly noble characters and they are adequately horrified over what is happening to the children in Roderick's care and they are certainly very sympathetic to the plight of the children on the street in general. Perhaps a little too noble and too caring, especially Kristie. While Payton has a past and some badass-ness in him, but Kristie is just a little too perfect and childlike in her innocence really. I was also irritated that she didn't stay inside as she had been ordered- I understand it's a romance novel staple for heroine's who are being stalked or otherwise threatened need to throw caution to the wind (so we can have a big conflict at the end) but she was dealing with one seriously crazy man! There was quite a bit of sex between the two, but it wasn't exactly very hot. It did lead to some funny moments when the children discovered them, though. Interestingly enough I found myself eager for those parts of the story that were told from the point of view as Sir Roderick- they were really well done and really showed that he was completely losing his grip on reality.
The plot involving the molestation, Sir Roderick, and saving all the children of the world really completely takes over this book. I don't want to seem as though I want romance novels that only deal with superficially happy aspects of life, but really having pedophilia and child molestation play such a strong part of this book really makes it difficult to concentrate on the romance. Perhaps that is why romantic development does not play too strong a part in the novel in the first place. Although the children do play such a huge role in the story, Howell is not exactly skilled at writing children who portray age appropriate behaviors and language. I understand that these children have been forced to mature quickly- it is just not at all realistic. Finally- the time period of this book makes no sense to me. I figured out that it takes place in the 15th century because there's a reference to the War of Roses, but there is no evidence of this throughout the book. A few clothing references, but with such a huge emphasis on "court" life and his having a home in the city really makes this time frame of doubtful realism.
Rating: In the Scottish accent that Howell sprinkles very liberally throughout the book: I donnea think I will be reading any more books by Hannah Howell.