Lady Arabella St. Claire is impetuous by nature so when Darius Wynter, Duke of Carlyne, challenges her on her lack of experience she takes him up on it and finds herself on top of a desk in an incredibly compromising position when her brother, Hawk, walks in. Hawk is not pleased at the thought of his little sister marrying a known rake like Darius, so a year ago when Darius, who was still a mere Lord at the time, came with a proposal he turned him down flat. Unfortunately Darius believes that it is Lady Arabella who turned him down and he has been holding it against her every since. Still, she realizes that she has not met a single man who intrigues her and can hold her interest as well as Damien, so she decides that she will marry him. He is quite pleased at the idea of finally having the beautiful and quite feisty Arabella as his wife, but he is worried about a French spy who recently escaped from custody and his own younger brother, Francis, who has turned in to quite the horrible person and is out to get him.
On their wedding night he is called away to talk to someone, the inn that they are staying at burns down, and then there is a horrible carriage accident which makes it more obvious to Darius that this evil person is trying to kill both him and his wife. He believes this person may have also killed his first wife, a rich woman he didn't love who died less than a year after the marriage. It could be an escaped French spy or even his own brother, who has always coveted the dukedom, although he is not sure. Arabella is furious that Darius has to continually leave her, but all her anger is quickly turned to arousal at the slightest touch or look from Darius. He does not want anyone thinking that he actually cares about his wife or they might target her and he knows he could not bear to loose his wife. However, he is duty bound to keep her in the dark about his profession as a spymaster because of his promise to the crown. When the evil comes out of the woodwork, Darius realizes that it is time for love to play a more important role than duty and the two need to admit their feelings for each other- finally.
I find it odd that this book, indeed the two main characters, make so much out of the verbal spars the two of them are sure to have- almost as if there life will be a challenge. Indeed, Arabella doesn't tell Darius that she didn't turn him down, her brother did, because that would put an end to "their battle of wills" and she would lose. What? So a big misunderstanding that's not a misunderstanding because she knows about it and DECIDES not to put an end to it. Crazy! I am not a big fan of couple's whose main interactions consist of arguing or sparing/ banter and this book definitely falls into that category. I also found it weird that these two were in love with each other from the beginning yet they were just too scared to admit it to each other. The spy/ murder plot really did take over completely and it had a really big, and not exactly good, impact on the relationship between these two.
The sex between them was incredibly hot- like really good and very well written. However the book makes several references to him wanting to spank her and he actually does it! This may sound odd but I have no problem with spankings if they're doing it because both parties are enjoying it, but to do it for punishment is just incredibly patronizing- especially considering she's not a child. While it turns out that she liked it in the end, I found the entire thing to be rather humiliating for her so I didn't like it. This really does tie in with the ridiculousness of both of their actions. He is so intent on hiding his secret life as a spy hunter that he won't tell her why he has to abandon her on their wedding night and right after they have just made love. Unfortunately Arabella's actions are not all that much better as she does rather behave like a spoiled child, but I can at least see where she's coming from. I wish he could have told her why he was doing all these things- it seemed ridiculous for him to go on hiding it from her for so long- especially since her own life was in danger.
Rating: This book was not completely horrible, but I disliked almost all of the interactions between these two. At least it was readable.