The widowed Diana Carrick has worked at and loved Cranston Abbey for as long as she can remember. Her father is the bailiff of Lord Burnley and when he makes her an offer that can end with her in charge of the abbey she takes it even though it will mean compromising her principles. Burnley wants her to seduce Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, and become pregnant before marrying Burnley and raising the child as theirs. When Diana confronts Tarquin he is intrigued by this gorgeous woman who has an air of innocence about her, but he turns her down. However, he cannot get her out of his head and when he finds her again he takes her up on her offer and the next few weeks are filled with carnal delights for both of them. Diana is having a very hard time reconciling the heartless rake she was led to expect with this obviously caring, funny, and attentive lover she has discovered in Ashcroft.
Ashcroft has prided himself on never falling in love and maintaing a distance from the women he sleeps with but Diana makes him throw all of this out the window. He cannot get enough of her in bed, he can't stop thinking about her, and he feels happier when she is with him. Diana feels horribly about what she has done, but cannot go back now and she dreads him finding out the truth about her. She tries to end things between them, but he wont' let her out of his life, and his actions make her fall in love with him. The matter is taken out of her hand when Burnley confronts both of them and to swallow his pride, Ashcroft leaves after throwing insults at Diana. She is heartbroken and does not know if she can continue with the original plan, but now she has a child to consider. Despite his intentions, when word comes of Diana's marriage, Ashcroft knows that he will need to take one more chance on her, for both their sakes.
While I always like it when a heroine is imperfect and not perfectly noble, I debate whether Diana went a little too far in the opposite direction. Her love for the abbey was understandable and her desire to provide a home for her father was noble, but it was a little crazy for her to go to all this trouble for it. It was not like she would have starved or been completely thrown out into the street, it really was entirely selfish. And I really did not understand what her appeal was to Ashcroft besides her obvious beauty. The book goes on about her innocence and how appealing that is to him, especially as it's hidden behind a veneer of promiscuity, but I don't see that as a reason for him to fall in love with her. Ashcroft was definitely more lovable and made a great rake turned lovelorn hero as he really funny and caring and quite attentive to her. His attempts to win her back after she left him were spot on and perfect.
Unfortunately her guilt over actions really drag the book down and there were almost no times when this overwhelming emotion allowed both of them to just be happy in each other's company. It was especially irritating because it was obvious fairly on that he would have forgiven her if she had just told him what had happened and changed her mind and chosen Ashcroft. This book had a lot of sex- the first 200 or so pages were pretty much one after another of them going at it. It was pretty damn good really, but at times it did drag on and get all flowery. I really like Campbell's writing; it's beautiful and descriptive without going overboard although sometimes scenes tend to run on pretty long. She did a remarkable job writing from Ashcroft's perspective and I was quite impressed with him in general. Burnley was a great character in his evilness and I wish there had been a seen from his point of view.
Rating: Ashcroft made this book and I loved everything with him in it, but Diana's guilt and her actions in general did not really appeal. 3because I liked it more than most 2's.