When her stepfather kicks her and her little sister out of their home after their mother's death, Esmee Hamilton decides that the best course of action would be to go to Sir Alasdair MacLachlan. Alasdair is Sorcha's father and her parentage is the reason that the two sister's were left on the stoop. Alasdair does not even remember his affair with Esmee's mother, but he has led a very dissolute life filled with many women. He can tell that Sorcha is a MacLachlan because of her eyes and he knows he must keep her, but he is terrified of what could happen when Esmee threatens to leave. He offers her the position of governess so that she can stay and be with her sister, but both know that the situation is very dangerous as he is quite a rakehell and she is an innocent, if not naive, young miss. The attraction they feel for each other is real and while they try to avoid each other, things don't go as planned and it is not long before they succumb to their desires.
The two bond over their love for young Sorcha and Esmee is quite impressed by how well Alasdair takes to being a father as he plays with the little girl and learns how to handle her temper. He desperately wants Esmee, but fears that the sixteen year age difference and his shady pace preclude any happiness they could have together. When he discovers that Esmee is an heiress, and the niece of one of the ton's grand dames, he tells her that she should go and find another man to wed; a nice, calm man who can do right by her. But he does not expect this man to be his equally disolute best friend, Quenten. Seeing Esmee with Quin pains Alasdair and makes him seriously reconsider everything he had thought about himself and the possibilities in the future. Esmee knows that she wants Alasdair, but when he rebuffs her, she is determined to get on. But of course there is no way Alasdair can let let Esmee marry someone else once he realizes he needs her so he sets out to convince both of them that they can be happy together.
I enjoyed reading about Esmee and Alasdair and how they came to be together through such interesting circumstances. I really liked that parts where the two of them were dealing with Sorcha together, but I do wish there had been more time with just the two of them together. There also were very few times when they were getting along together and just enjoying each other's company. They argued quite a lot and both of the sex scenes were brought about by arguments and challenges. However, the sex was romantic enough and really quite hot, although I wish there had been quite a bit more and it had been spread out through more of the book. It dragged on a little bit near the end when the two of them were each trying to convince themselves that they did not belong together. I definitely like my romances where I get a sneak peak into what their life together as they admit their love before the end of the novel. However, the denial did fit in with both of their characters.
There is quite the age difference between the two, and while this is fairly common, it is dealt with incredibly skillful in this instance. During conversations with his brother, the situation is discussed and it is made clear that while she is younger, age wise, her circumstances and her self-assurance, and her ability to handle herself have matured her. It worked. I also really enjoyed the wrenching emotions that each of them was going through when they thought they were not going to end up together. Carlyle does it very well so it does not overwhelm, but still keeps it interesting. The book really barely touched on the fact that Alasdair had had an affair, however brief, with Esmee's mother. I admit I could not decide if it was better that they just kind of skipped over it or it would have been better if they had aired all the dirty laundry. The book sets up the next two in the series very well, and I am reviewing the three of them in order.
Rating: I did like reading this book, but I would have preferred Esmee and Alasdair having spent more time together and really more romance.