Beth Ackerley is widowed and after inheriting 100,000 lbs and a house in Belgrave Square from her deceased employer, she was suddenly welcomed into the arms of society, especially broke noblemen. Despite her father being a confidence man and growing up in a workhouse, Sir Lyndon Matthers asks her to marry him. When Lord Ian Mackenzie discovers that Matthers is betrothed he wants to find out if Beth is "real" and if so then he knows he must warn her of Matthers unconventional sexual habits. Their first meeting of the opera makes it clear to Ian that Beth is not only real, but a great companion, and someone he desperately wants in his life. Despite his own noble upbringing, Ian has always been regarded as odd because of his inability to "read" people, his lack of knowledge about proper behavior, his inability to lie, and his inability to look people directly in the eye, and he suffered a harrowing existence in an asylum for years, until his brother, a high ranking Duke, got him out.
Detective Fellows, of Scotland Yard, has been trying to pin the murder of a prostitute on Ian for years, and has been stifled by Ian's high up connections. He wants Beth to help him and it is just convenient for Ian that he wants to marry Beth and at the same time it protects her from Fellows investigation. Beth can make him happy, can make him forget the memories, and he wants to keep her pure from his past and from any problems in his past. But Beth is determined to solve Ian's problems by discovering who really killed the prostitutes, even if it puts her life in danger. The more she pushes the more Ian fears that the rage he has tried to suppress for so long will emerge and he will end up hurting the woman who has come to mean the world to him. Unfortunately the truth does land Beth in a sick bed and Ian, who has so little experience with emotions, knows that he does love Beth- and she is the one who can help him through his "madness."
Wow- Beth was absolutely great in literally every way. She was funny, truthful, and a great, not crazy, optimist. I loved the fact that she was not cowed by Fellows blackmail threats to reveal the truth of her parentage. I briefly worried that this would be the "big, easily solved, misunderstanding" that drives me nuts, and was really happy that she called him on it, told Ian, and everyone got over it. Showed how great she was and how she was at peace with herself and willing to let her loved ones know about her. As I've said sometimes I have problems with novels where the hero just needs this "light" that the heroines brings into his life, because it is not adequately explained, but in this case it was done perfectly. Beth really did bring something in Ian's life that he desperately needed, and she was perfect for it. It's fairly obvious that Ian had a case of high functioning autism, that was undiagnosed because of the era, and it was great how Beth dealt with the idiosyncrasies that came with this. He was odd in a naturalistic way, and still very lovable.
The relationship developed in a completely brilliant way as they both got to know each other and especially how they came to accept each other's faults. This was especially poignant as Beth came to know Ian, learned how to cope and even admire his little issues. The sex between them was smoking with some nice "bawdy talk," but I wish there had been more of it sprinkled throughout the book. There was a big family story built into this novel (I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of this series) with all these incredibly tortured members who are trying their best to love each other. The mystery of who really killed those prostitutes is woven so well into the story and serves as a great backdrop for their romance. I will also admit that I was completely stunned by the outcome and the extra little secret in the end. I liked the writing throughout the book- it was fast, interesting, and still managed to portray all the emotions and provide all the details that I wanted.
Rating: I was amazed at how well Ashley portrayed such an unexpected hero and at how great she just made every element of this story.