Jasper Sullivan, the Earl of Blackwater, is not at all pleased when his dissolute uncle converts to Catholicism on his deathbed and decrees that his three nephews will have to save a lost soul by marrying a prostitute. Clarissa Astley is in London following her Uncle Luke in order to find her brother, Francis. After their father died he gave Francis into Luke's keeping and Luke took Francis and he has not been seen since. While wandering through the streets she bumps into Jasper who mistakes the woman alone on the street as a prostitute and decides that she will be a perfect soul to save and marry. She is horrified at first at the charade she is forced to engage in to pull this off but figures that hiding as a mistress is the perfect way to hide for her uncle while she works to find her brother at one of the baby farms she believes Francis has been placed in.
To hide her virginity from him she engages that help of some of the ladies of the evening at the establishment where she was able to find lodging. She is almost fully prepared when she moves in with Jasper but for a man with his experience it is obvious that Clarissa is anything but the whore he had been led to believe. Meanwhile Clarissa is scouring the seediest part of London looking for her brother and it isn't long before Luke realizes what has happened and decides that the best way to go about gaining Francis's fortune is to just get rid of Clarissa. Jasper is coming to love Clarissa and wants her to trust him with the secrets she's been keeping, including the sudden appearance of the young chimney-sweep, Frank, in the house. She desperately wants to, but is scared of what will happen to their relationship, but before she has the chance, Luke makes an appearance and Jasper will have to come to the rescue.
It took me a little while to get into this book and it was slow going for a while but once I got about halfway through the book I just zipped through it. It really took off when the relationship between Jasper and Clarissa became a real thing and not just something that was hinted at and talked about and when stuff finally started to happen with Francis and the evil Uncle Luke. Absolutely loved Charissa and how she went after her brother and pretended to be a prostitute and especially that she was willing to do some pretty wild stuff to pull off the charade. I won't make a spoiler but the way she "hid" her virginity was something I certainly never would have imagined reading. Jasper was almost as exciting but I really wish more of the book had been told from his point of view. I especially liked near the end as he began to get worried that Clarissa did not have the same feelings for him.
The convoluted will that brought the two of them together was quite an original and I really liked it. And I really liked the plot involving Uncle Luke and Francis because it added a real oomph to the story with some mystery and suspense. I was rather expecting that Francis' plight would lead to Clarissa becoming a crusader for children's rights and I admit I was a little disappointed when that did not happen. Francis was a very well written ten year old however I got a little frustrated when Clarissa basically set herself up by going out around town when she knew that there was a crazy man out on the loose looking for them. I also very much liked the parts of the book that were told from the point of view of Luke as it's always so interesting to really hear what the bad guy is thinking.
Rating: I really enjoyed all the interesting plots that combined to make such a great book that could have used some more realism and smarter characters.