Lady Gabriella Banning is determined to give her sister, the beautiful Claire, a season in London so that she can find a man. After years of living under their father's penny-pinching thumb, she can't help but feel relieved when he dies and their brother Marcus takes over. Marcus has lived in Ceylon on a tea plantation his entire life, but they hold out hope that he will be a better guardian than their father, and certainly better than their Uncle Thomas, who will inherit after Marcus. But Marcus is killed in Ceylon, and Gabby decides that the best thing to do will be to just pretend that Marcus is still alive so they can have access to the Wickham funds until Claire is married. When they arrive in town Gabby is stunned to find that there is someone there pretending to be Marcus, the Earl of Wickham. Although she is certainly not pleased about matters, the two reach a tentative agreement to go along with things and pretend that the pretend Marcus is the real Marcus.
When Gabby accidentally shoots Marcus, she spends a lot of time at his bedside nursing him back to health. Marcus quickly comes to realize that Gabby, despite not being as pretty as her sister, is brave, kind, and dependable. To get kisses out of her he cruelly pretends that he will attempt to seduce Claire, and Gabby gives in. She knows she cannot trust this pretender, but when the two of them are being intimate, none of that matters. Unfortunately, Gabby also knows that for the good of her family she will need to marry a steady, dependable man. Nick, the fake Marcus, has been pretending to be Marcus, in order to discover who it was that shot the real Marcus. But Gabby is wary of trusting Nick, even as her feelings for him are changing into something that closely resembles love. Things come to a head when Gabby's life, and the security of the nation, are threatened and he must choose between his duty and the woman he loves.
I really liked Gabby's character as she really was a great person, because she was willing to really do anything to help her sisters, and yet she also broke the rules quite a bit which I loved. The fact that she had a limp and a scary man in her past, that she tried to overcome, was just icing on the cake in showing what a great person she was. Nick was interesting for sure, but I did not really like that fact that we did not really discover anything about him until the book was practically over. It made knowing why Gabby fell for him a little difficult. Really she knew nothing about him and he blackmailed her into making out with him by flat out threatening to flirt with the prettier sister. However, he was suitably protective about her when it came to the bad guys so that was good. The sex between them was hot and well written with plenty of good lead in scenes, and it happened in a more realistically timely manner (the two did not just fall into bed together) than usual.
I was a little confused because the plot about finding who had killed the real Marcus was almost completely forgotten for most of the novel. Nick's attempts to find the killer basically consisted of him disappearing for days, causing great concern for Gabby. I felt as though it was wrapped up really fast and rather abruptly, however I will admit that I did not particularly mind as I was more concerned with Gabby and Nick's relationship. I really wish more of the story had been told from his point of view as I would really have liked to have gotten a better on handle on that. The writing was certainly good, but at times it got a little wordy and there were several instances when the paragraphs were far too long, like an entire page. Once I got used to it I find myself completely immersed in the story and able to overlook this. This was the first in a series about the Banning sisters, and I am already looking forward to reading the next ones.
Rating: A very good story with a great heroine. I would have liked more information about the hero and the murder plot though.