Caroline Armstrong is determined not to wed any of the men her grandmother is parading in front of her during her first London season. She decides she will pretend to be a boring and dull blue-stocking so that she can wait for the return of her sweetheart, Stephen Bennett. Stephen was from the South and had been a student of her father's before going back to the US to join in the Confederacy's fight. When she goes out on the balcony to escape an unlikable suitor, she runs in to Alexander Woodward, Duke of Woodborough. After quite an interesting conversation where they both reveal they don't want to get married and share a very tempting kiss. He comes calling on her the next day and they decide that the perfect solution to their problem is for the two of them to pretend to be courting so that everyone will cease matchmaking.
At first the agreement goes smoothly, although it does entail the two of them spending quite a lot of time together. It is not long before Alex realizes that he wants to marry Caroline in truth, but she is still wary of revealing the truth about her relationship with Stephen. However, Alex is willing to overlook past indiscretions because of his love for Caroline and, much to the delight of all of their family, the two become engaged for real. But when Stephen shows up as a surprise visitor at their wedding, and reveals another secret that Caroline had neglected to disclose, Alex is horrified, but it does not take long for him to realize that he needs Caroline in his life. It seems that the woman Alex had been unofficially engaged to, did not like being thrown over. Together the two of them have to stand by each other, and work to undue mistakes that have been made in the past so that they can move on with their lives together.
My biggest problem with the book was the fact that Caroline did not disclose all of her secrets to Alex from the relative beginning. Even when I thought all the secrets were out, it turns out there were more, even bigger ones, still hiding and it would have made it so much easier, and much more sense, for her to just tell him instead of first rejecting all his proposals, and then later, living in fear of him discovering her secrets. And when Stephen shows up her feelings are definitely torn between the two men. Although it makes sense for her to still have unresolved feelings, I still was not pleased that she was married to this great man, and couldn't get over her old love. I love Alex and the way he shows how much he loves Caroline. I loved the end, when they got together to really fight against all the problems that had been brought up against them. It really showed how great their relationship was. There was plenty of sex between them but it was just lukewarm.
Stephen was great, because he was not exactly evil- although he certainly was not a good character as he did cause so many problems- but his motives could at least be explained away with love. While it may not be pure, at least he wasn't completely malicious. However, Madeleine Maxwell was certainly malicious and I loved it! I don't know why but I just like female villains so much more and they're just more fun to read about. Alex's mother was another great character and just so awesomely chatter and romantic. I had a problem with the writing style for the first third of the book. It's hard to put my finger on precisely what the problem was but I definitely felt as though O'Riley was not really all that good at writing the first meeting scenes. Once they settled down and were really going on with the relationship, but in the beginning the descriptions, and especially the dialogue was awkward.
Rating: I did really enjoy this book and loved how strong their feelings for each other were, but Caroline was rather frustrating and weak at times.