For ten years lady Calpurnia Hartwell has been respectable and completely on the shelf. When her younger sister, Mariana, becomes engaged to a Duke, Callie knows that she needs to grab ahold of life with both hands and have an adventure or two... or nine. She makes a list of the nine things she would like to do; from the scandalous- gamble in a gentleman's club, to the things she has always secretly wanted but has been too scared to hope for- to be considered beautiful and to dance every dance at a ball. Remembering a moonlit stroll at a ball when she first came out she decides that the rakish Gabriel St. John, Marquess of Ralson, would be a perfect man to help her cross off the first thing on her list; to be kissed passionately. Ralston is shocked, intrigued, and very tempted when the missish Callie makes her proposition but he obliges her with the stipulation that she help him bring his newly discovered, illegitimate, Italian sister, Juliana, out into society.
As Callie spends more and more time around the St. John family, the more she knows that she has always had feelings for Ralston, but she knows her feelings will never be returned. Ralston is at first furious to learn of Callie's list, but is fascinated by this woman who is a mix of innocence and exuberance and wants to experience everything life has to offer her. He decides he should accompany her as she fulfills all of the experience on her list, and although he knows that he will never be able to offer the love that she wants, he can't help but be tempted by her. He has always known he will never marry because his mother left his father and his father died of a broken heart, but the more time he spends with Callie the more he comes to think that he can never let her go. Their happily ever after will have quite a few bumps on the road as Callie is unwilling to settle for anything less than Ralston's heart, and while it takes awhile, she wins it in the end and he wins hers.
I absolutely loved Callie as one of my favorite heroines ever. MacLean did an amazing job making her situation seem real to the readers and explaining her sudden need to go out and do something super excited. I loved that she was nervous and not completely go get them, as to be honest her being a little apprehensive made much more sense, and yet she so bravely went out and did all of those completely scandalous things. I love reading about a heroine who goes and takes charge of her life in a way that makes sense for her character and Callie certainly did it here. Ralston was also great, although it would be impossible to top Callie, because he was dark and broody and quite the rake, but it was so obvious that he was a great person. He loved his family and did his best to make everything work out for her even if he was not all that good at it. And he struggled so hard with his emotions involving Callie as he felt guilt that he was taking advantage of her, and yet he knew he would not be able to stop.
The relationship was the backbone of this story and it developed so wonderfully throughout the book from their first meeting when she developed quite a crush on him to them working together to complete all of the crazy things on her list to when he finally came around and recognized that he was in love with her. There was always tremendous chemistry between them and every time they got together I knew that something amazing was going to happen, whether they argued or went fencing. And the sex between them was amazing- super HOT, highly emotional, and a great addition to a great story. The side characters were superb and even her perfect sister wasn't annoying. I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel and any other books that spring from this one. I love MacLean's writing, it was humorous and fast, and never missed a beat. And I will say that I very much enjoyed all of the banter- it was interesting without being obnoxious. The book is nearly 400 pages and I didn't regret a single one of them.
Rating: I absolutely loved this story and it was completely character and romance driven. I definitely recommend this book.