Miss Celia Pennifold is called to London for her mother's funeral and to manage the debts her mother left upon her death. Her mother had once been the most celebrated courtesan in London and everyone had expected Celia to follow in her footsteps but instead she had run away and joined other females at The Rarest Blooms out in the country. She is not surprised that most of her mother's holdings will go straight to settling debts but she is left a small house. Said house comes with a tenant: Mr. Jonathan Albrighton, who had been a friend to her when she lived with her mother. She hopes to use the house she is left to become partner in her friend's flower business and make a decent life for herself without having to become like her mother. But then a man from her past shows up with a new debt and the hope that Celia will agree to become his mistress.
Celia had once fancied herself in love with Anthony Dearang but he had dashed her hopes when he refused to marry her and wanted to set her up as his mistress so she had run away from London. She now knows that what she felt for Anthony is not love as she is beginning to feel real emotion for Jonathan. At first annoyed by his presence she has come to enjoy their time together, especially when they are doing something naughty. He supports her decision to help run a business and her decision to turn away from the life her mother had planned for her. But Celia is very aware of her social status and how she should not hope from marriage from anyone. As the bastard of a high-ranking peer who never acknowledged him, Jonathan too knows about social status but unlike Celia it does not matter to him. What does matter is making the woman he loves happy and making her see that she loves him too.
This book is part of a series by Madeline Hunter and the series had had its ups and downs and this book falls fairly squarely in the middle. Celia was great as the courtesan's daughter who was trying to avoid that life even as everyone around her pretty much assumed that she would give in to temptation. However, what made her situation so realistic, was that she had not given up that life because of some great moral compass and she continued to use and respect some of the things that her mother had taught her when she was going to become a courtesan. So basically she was warring between her practical self which was telling her to just give in and have a comforting life and forging her own path and taking some great risks and hoping that she could find a man who loved her despite, or because of, her rather unusual past. This made it even more exciting when she did decide on love and a life with Jonathan.
Jonathan was also great as the bastard who was trying to get to know his real family while at the same time pretending he didn't really care about being accepted. This made him a great foil for Celia who was going through some of the same issues herself and enabled him to help her through it. The language throughout the book was rather on the flowery side for my taste but it was especially annoying during the sex scenes which were plentiful and sometimes bordered on hot, but just not really exciting. There were plenty of allusions to the things she had learned with her mother but we really did not get to read too much about these things. Their was a confusing bit about Jonathan trying to dig up information about a spy network, but it was rather convoluted and I did not really care for it. He was of course friends with the heroes from the other books and she was friends with the heroines so there were lots of meetings betw
een them and talks and general being so great together.
Rating: This was a good, fun to read book, with two wonderful characters but too flowery and weird maybe spying and betrayal bits that I didn't really get the point of.