Camden Rutledge, Earl of Treyhem, is in desperate straights when he decides to employ another governess for his unruly daughter. The child has not spoken in years, since her mother died in a mysterious fire, and he decides to employ an expert in the field. He is shocked to discover Helene de Severs, a childhood friend and crush, whose mother was his very father's mistress for years is his new governess. Helene is not exactly pleased to be working with Camden again, but she wants very much to help Arianne and thinks that she has managed to place her old feelings for him away. Cam knows that he will not be able to live with Helene without giving in to the lust he feels for her, but when he offers to make her his mistress she is horrified and turns him down. When they were children Helene and Cam had been close friends and before she had been sent away to boarding school, they had engaged in some not so childish acts of love. Both begin to suspect that their feelings have not changed all that much.
Helene is shocked to discover that Arianne can speak when she comes in during the night as the child is having a nightmare. In the brief moments where the story is told from Arianne's point of view, we learn that she is keeping a secret for her dead mother who told her to keep quiet and she is taking it to the extreme. Cam apologizes for his offer to Helene and sets out to woo her, which he does successfully until his sister, Catherine, informs Helene that he is unofficially engaged to his cousin, Joan. Helene is horrified and Cam realizes that he cannot marry Joan because, despite all the years that have passed, his feelings for Helene have not changed and he wants her as so he did when they were young. He wants to marry Helene but she is still convinced that their stations preclude any attachment between them. When the truth about his wife's murder comes out it threatens their happiness forever, and Cam must come to the rescue to save both the ladies he holds dear.
I liked Helene because she was an honest to goodness working woman who had made a real life for herself without the hero's help or anyone else's. She was independent and sure of herself and did not let her mother's past get in way. She was a tad stubborn when it came to finally admitting that Cam was the one for her, but I also liked that she genuinely liked children, especially Arianne, and it did not seem as though this was just written as a reason for the hero to fall in love her. I liked that Cam was able to admit that he still loved Helene so quickly and that he was not at all a rake! Craziness in a romance novel hero, I know so it was quite a nice change of pace. Despite his not having legions of experience the sex between them is really well written and pretty hot really although there is only one scene and it is practically at the end of the book. I also really liked that the two characters were of an age with each other and especially that Helene was not a 20 year old debutante.
My first complaint with this book was that it was very long and really rather slow going. I had to put it down and read another book quite a few times and it took me forever to finish. I was not really that interested in finding out the truth behind Cassandra's death and I was not sure how accurate it was to have a child suddenly stop talking completely because her mother tells her not tell anyone about a secret. How sad that I was so annoyed by a child in this book. I will say right now- I get the feeling I have read this plot in another book with a child who doesn't talk to keep a secret about her dead mother and it was better done in the last book. I will say though that the truth is quite interesting and I was completely taken by surprise at the end when the big kidnap scene happens. I wish that Cam and Helene had spent more time together getting to know more about each other and really seeing how they got along as I felt as though most of this overly long book was not about them, but about other things.
Rating: I felt like so much could have been done with these two characters if they had been given time together and not surrounded by 420 pages of extra words.