Five years ago Ian Wentworth was held captive in a dungeon for five long weeks by three sisters and while two of them saw justice, another one escaped and he has waited all this time for revenge. Viola Bennington Jones, the widowed Lady Cheshire, has tried to distance herself from her past and from the man she fell in love with years ago and tried to help. She married well, had a son and made a name for herself painting portraits, even though in secret she paints erotic sketches under a pseudonym. When Ian strolls back into her life she is terrified he will reveal who she is but she also can't help but try to find the man she loved so long ago beneath the angry facade. He wants the truth from her and wants to humiliate her in front of the other peers and while he sets out to do this he begins to think he may be going about this all wrong and doubts his own beliefs that Viola is deserving of this harsh plan.
Things become even more complicated when he discovers that her son is actually his and he becomes even more obsessed with getting her to tell him what exactly happened in the dungeon. She does not want to admit to anything as she is scared of what could happen to her son and because she is worried about admitting to feelings for a man who has already admitted that he wants nothing from her but revenge. In a fit of desperation he kidnaps her and takes him to his fishing cottage where he intends to recreate what happened to him but things go awry when his feelings for her come to the surface and they end up making love. The next morning he is forced to run off to see his sister but he intends to make everything better. He has no choice but to confront his feelings when he believes she is going to marry another, and he has to decide if he can forgive her for her actions years ago in order to make a future.
Ian was not exactly completely well rounded in the beginning of the book but as the story progressed he showed himself to be a more nuanced character as he sorted through his feelings for Viola. He went through some tremendous changes throughout the book, but they really did not come fast enough. So much of this book was spent with him being angry at her and he was obsessed with learning "the truth" about what happened to him in the dungeon and it got irritating. It was just as irritating that Viola was so adamant about not telling him the truth and while she did have a reason it's not fun when the big obstacle to the protagonists happiness could be so easily solved. Viola was equally as unexceptional as Ian except I found her erotic paintings to be quite entertaining and wish there had been more of them mentioned in the
Their relationship really seemed to be about making the other upset and humiliating them and the sex between them had this rather angry aspect to it where they both seemed to not want to be happy. I also really wish that more time had been spent with Ian and his son getting to know each other as when there is a secret baby I think it should play a more important role in the story. At first I thought that the book just referred to a lot of things that happened before the book started, but it quickly become obvious that there was a previous book featuring Ian's sister that really went in to depth about his kidnapping and why and how it happened. Almost no real information about what happened is given until the last 20 pages when a big diamond plot was revealed and I did not really appreciate being kept in the dark for so long or feeling as though I should have read another book before this one. As with her last novel I admire Ashworth's way with words and how her novels flow so really well and read very fast.
Rating: While I did somewhat enjoy reading this book, partly because I finished it so soon, there was just too much crazy obsession with pushing each other away.