Lord Nicholas St. John, twin brother of the Marquess of Ralston, is not pleased to be named one of the ten most eligible lords to land by Pearls and Pelisses magazine as every young lady in London decides they want to marry him. So when his friend, the Duke of Leighton, asks him to go find his sister, who has disappeared, he agrees to become a tracker like he had been years before when he lived in Turkey. Lady Isabela Townsend is the proprietess of "Minerva House," a secret safe place for young women who have nowhere else to turn and she is determined to keep it a secret. She knows that taking in the sister of Duke could bring mayhem, but she does not want to turn the scared and pregnant girl away. Her wastreal father had abandoned his wife and children and squandered the money away, leaving Isabela and her brother, the very young new earl, practically penniless.
Nicholas tracks the sister to Yorkshire where he runs into Isabela who hires him to value a collection of marbles she might need to sell to keep Minerva House running. She does not want him discovering thesecret of Townsend Park, but a rainstorm keeps him and his friend ensconced in the house. He has always felt the need to help females in need, but never so much as with Isabela even though she vehemently denies she needs any. After seeing what love did to her mother she never wants to fall in love, but Nicholas makes it very hard as he wears her down and she begins to trust him and think that he could be someone she can share her burdens with. But when she discovers that he is there to take one of "her" girls away she feels betrayed and thinks that he has proven to be just like every other man in her life. She risks losing him if she cannot move beyond her past and take a chance with the man she loves.
I absolutely adored the first book in this series featuring the Marquess of Ralson, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and was very much looking forward to this one even while realizing it would be hard to live up to such high expectations. Nicholas has quite the past as a hunter for missing people in Turkey and apparently one with women in need, but the reader gets barely a glimpse into this aspect of him until it is revealed in the end. Since such a big deal was made about it throughout the book I would have liked not to be left in the dark for so long. But I did like how MacLean made a distinction between merely wanting to help Isabela and really falling in love with her so I could tell his emotions were genuinely for her. Isabela had demons of her own as she was so intent on not becoming her mother and ruining her life for the man she loved that she ended up doing that exact thing.
It was Isabela who went through the most change in this book and really had to confront how she had led her life and how she had been controlled by fears. I loved reading about her learning how to open up and let someone else in, but when she worried he had betrayed her things kind of went downhill. While I could understand why she felt betrayed I wanted her to get over it quicker than she did and I felt like that dragged the book a bit. I liked that they were so great together and could work with each other and their was plenty of steam throughout the book and it was at times pretty hot. I absolutely adored Isabela's brother, James the new Earl of Reddich, who was precocious and so wanted to grow up and take care of his sister and the other women. And there was a wonderful little side romance featuring Isabela's cousin and Nicholas's friend that I wish had been more showcased in the novel.
Rating: Another great book by MacLean who writes very well rounded characters, and although it got irritating at times, it still shown overall.