Temperance Dewes helps her younger brother run an orphanage in the seedy St. Giles and on an excursion to rescue a baby she runs into Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire. Caire is hunting for the man who murdered his mistress and is determined to find him even though he admits that he did not love her. He is coming to a standstill in his hunt so he enlists the help of the very beautiful widow to help him navigate the underworld and talk to people who would never dare talk to him. Temperance is scared of Caire; scared of what he's doing and definitely scared of the feelings he is arousing in her. Sex is a sin and she knows that her urges are bad and that she must attempt to fight them and it doesn't help that everyone knows that Caire's urges are unnatural. Caire is surprised to discover he has all these new emotions in him after avoiding feelings since his sister died.
Caire recognizes that, like him, Temperance avoids emotions as she refuses to get close to any of the children at the orphanage and avoids her sexual urges. And Temperance is fascinated by Caire, especially his assertion that other people's touches cause him pain and she wants to take that away from him. The two of them get closer and closer to the truth behind Marie's murder and begin to peel away the layers that they're each hiding under. Meanwhile Temperance's family is undergoing a crisis as her younger sister has to help her husband escape a piracy charge and the brothers all decide that Caire is going to lead their sister straight to hell. But it is not long before the person who killed Marie comes after the two of them with the intent of shutting them up. Suddenly their little affair mans so much more Caire and Temperance realize that their love can heal the problems from both their pasts.
Temperance is a heroine with demons of her own as she suffers immense guilt surrounding her sexual appetites and the death of her husband. This is really woven into the story very well and contributed to the romance greatly throughout the novel. Her attempts to keep people from getting too close to him were beautiful really as it was so obvious that she did care about the children but she was so scared of getting hurt or letting someone down. And of course I loved that she worked so hard at an orphanage and that she wasn't a member of the peerage so her actions did not seem like rich guilt. Caire was also tortured as he suffered from thinking his mother did not love him and losing his young sister. I will admit that at times his aversion to being touched, the pain he felt at it, seemed ridiculous and weird. It was not really explained int he book and just kind of went away- at least where it concerned Temperance.
Their eccentricities and fears were made even better because they were able to overcome them with the other's help. Caire learned to care and feel for and except love from other people while Temperance certainly overcome her guilt over sex. The two had a good amount of very hot and inventive sex and were very attracted to each other. Much was made of his perversions and I guess in those days it would have been bad, but it came across as just a kinky part of his personality. It was not overdone, there wasn't too much of it, and it worked in with both of their characters. The plot where they searched for the murderer never completely drew me in but liked that it added a touch of mystery and the ending was certainly a nice surprise. I especially enjoyed scenes between them and their family members because there were just so many elements at play and really showed what they were going through.