The first meeting between Lady Juliana Ivers and Alexius, Lord Sinclair is not quite auspicious as Alexius is being fellated by a former mistress of his. Nevertheless he quite likes the wood sprite he finds hiding in the tree to escape an overzealous suitor and is quite disappointed when she runs away before introducing herself. Juliana is town with her two older sisters and her mother who is determined to see them all wed. Unfortunately the family is not in the best financial straights as the mother has a gambling problem and the family patriarch, a distant cousin, has finally had enough and has cut them off. Alexius is not all that surprised when his sister enlists his help and asks him to seduce and cast off a young woman she sees as competition for the affection of another man. He is quite excited when he discovers that the woman in question is Juliana and he sets out to allay her fears and convince her that an liaison between the two of them could be quite a good time. He is not wrong and the two enjoy each other's company immensely.
Things begin to go badly when her mother's gambling debts threaten to crush the family and she makes a deal to give her daughter to Lord Gomfrey in exchange for forgiving the debts. Juliana cannot reach Alexius in time to ask for his help or explain what is occurring and he is furious when he believes that Juliana is leaving him for another man. The confrontation is very public and very emotional as he sets out to hurt her and all the warm feelings she had begun to develop for him are crushed. But then it turns out that Juliana's mother had been expected Alexius to go after Juliana and save the entire family and had been manipulating the whole thing to get a marriage ring.To make matters even worse Juliana's very uptight cousin has decided that in order to save the family he will have to marry her and he has no problem forcing himself on her. It is up to Alexius to prove to Juliana that she really is special to him, that she is different than all the other women, and that he loves her and deserves her forgiveness.
Obviously Alexius is quite the bad boy- their first two meetings are with him and another woman so in my opinion this warrants that quite a bit of very obvious change needs to occur in order to make him a decent romance novel hero. I am not quite sure he completely does go through a change although he certainly runs around a lot trying to save her. Also I have to admit that I absolutely hate his name; several times as I was reading I read "anxious," and while it was self correcting it was still annoying. Juliana is a musician and while she is very talented, enough to warrant publishing, I like that the book did not make her skills magical and so amazing that it silences entire rooms of listeners. That happens in so many novels and is just ridiculous in my opinion. I wish that the two of them had spent more time together after they had made up and we could see them getting along together and not at each other's throats of thinking about other women. I will say that I really liked the writing in this story as a whole and I liked that it was very fast paced and kept me very interested.
The sex was quite hot and inventive, however the fact that during it the reader was well aware he had done it with other women (because we were reminded of it) was a turn off. There was one scene involving a pearl necklace that was quite intriguing, but it really ended up turning me off because there were so many mentions of how this was a notorious and well known game that he played with all the women he slept with. I would have appreciated a more tame and emotional sex scene after they had reconciled and they were in love to really bring it together. Her mother was an absolute awful character as she did basically gamble away her daughter, although I can tell that Hawkins was trying to make her a nuanced character by having it be just an effort on her part to manipulate Alexius into a marriage proposal, but the act itself was so unforgivable I just didn't get it... but kudos to her for making a very strong effort.
Rating: I quite liked this book and while there were things I would have changed or liked done better I definitely plan on reading more from this author in this series.