Hannah, the widowed Duchess of Dunbarton, is finally out of mourning after ten years being married to a man old enough to be her grandfather and she wants to finally experience a grand passion. She chooses Mr. Constantine Huxtable, who was born four days before his parents marriage and thus did not inherit the earldom of Merton. Con cannot deny that the Duchess is gorgeous, but she has an air of coldness about her and he is not interested in playing any games with her. He makes it clear from the outset that she can't play these games with her, and while her childhood friend, Elizabeth, does not approve, the two do begin an affair. While both are determined to keep things purely physical it naturally follows that they each begin to want to know more about each other while closely guarding their own secrets. The first secret to come out is that Hannah had remained a virgin throughout her marriage and despite the numerous affairs she was rumored to have.
This reveal leads Con to the conclusion that there is quite a bit about Hannah that he, and everyone else in the ton, has never known. Meanwhile Hannah is trying desperately to get to the bottom of Con's feud with his cousin Elliot, the Duke of Moreland. Finally Con learns that Hannah's marriage to the deceased Duke was formed when Hannah had been dumped by her fiance for her own sister. After much soul searching Con admits that his feud with Elliot was based on missing jewels- jewels he had sold with his brother's permission to finance a home for society's undesirables. This is quite the coincidence as Hannah herself sold many of her own jewels to finance a house for elderly outcasts. During a house party Hannah gets to know Con's very large family, and while reluctant at first they eventually come to love her and accept her as a member of the family. Together, Con and Hannah must learn to move past their own pasts and start a peaceful and family full life together.
Hannah was incredibly withdrawn and was hiding the real her from the rest of the world and merely presenting a facade of coldness in order to protect her heart. If done properly this can be rather interesting, but I really did not enjoy it in this case. It just came across as depressing and of course she ended up realizing that all she needed was a man to love her and lots of children. I liked that she progressed from the coldness to being a happy person and she certainly showed she cared for Con, but I wish it had not been quite so all encompassing. I am not exactly one for the poor beautiful girl plot and there is certainly quite a bit made in this novel about how she was rather mistreated by her sibling, her father, and her former fiance because her looks. While I still don't exactly appreciate this method of building tension and secret brooding into the plot, at least Balogh did do a good job completely fleshing this out so it was not superficial and really did go a ways to explaining what was happening with Hannah.
I was so looking forward to Con's story because he was so great in the rest of the Huxtable books and he did not really disappoint. The secret behind his feud with Elliot was disappointing, but I was not really expecting anything better than that. I admit I would have liked for him to have been paired up with someone completely opposite him- someone really lively and happy. His having the house for unwanted people seemed more genuine than Hannah's having a house for random old people though and I do tend not to like when author's randomly seem to throw in a good cause to make the character's seem likable despite their immense wealth. Unfortunately this book contained far too much of something Balogh does all too often: previous characters make far too many appearances and almost take over the book. And sadly enough I really could not keep them straight when she referred to them by their titles. Also- I felt there was too much forgiveness and the book just ended up too saccharine.
Rating: The cover is certainly excellent and I did tend to like the beginning when they were getting to know each other but the book deteriorated from there.