Sarah Osbourne was welcomed into the Trent family when her father became head gardener on the estate and none was more welcoming than Simon, the Duke himself. Sarah worships Simon as a young girl and as she grows her feelings for him grow until one night the two indulge in a passionate kiss that leaves both of them shaken and forces Simon to abandon the family estate in an attempt to escape his inappropriate feelings. Three years later Simon comes back to the family seat because his mother, the Duchess has gone missing without a trace, and of course Sarah is there helping his family through this difficult time and stirring up old feelings in Simon. Sarah knows how fortunate she is to be welcomed into the unconventional Trent family and enjoys the comfort that comes with being a respected member of their household, but she is also aware that there is no possibility for a future between her and Simon. For his part Simon has spent his entire life trying to restore his family's broken reputation after his parents engaged in numerous, and very public, affairs.
Simon quickly takes over the search for his mother and he decides to take his sister Esme to London to begin his part of the search and appoints Sarah as her companion, a huge promotion for a housemaid. In London she helps build Esme's confidence and helps Simon piece together the few clues they have regarding his mother's disappearance. Sarah and Simon spend a lot of time together, becoming reacquainted and expanding their relationship and it isn't long before they find themselves succumbing to their mutual desires. But Simon's title is an impossible to resist lure to marriage hunters and someone will stop at nothing to ensnare Simon, putting his already difficult relationship with Sarah in jeopardy. Sarah is heartbroken even though she knew their future was murky, but she refuses to allow the love of her life to be forced into marriage. Together Simon and Sarah must fend of villains, secrets, blackmailers, and a stringent societal hierarchy to find a love to last forever.
Haymore has been disappointing of late after starting very strong and I am very pleased to find that she has returned to form with this wonderful first installment of the Trent family series. I love romances where the characters have a history together, but I am often disappointed that their relationship isn't developed enough during the course of the book. Luckily the romance between Simon and Sarah was built during the story and only mildly relied on their past together, while using the past as a strong basis for developing the romance. They spent a lot of time together, learning more about each other, discovering how their feelings for each other had continued to grow over the years and really showing the ready how in tune the two of them were and how well they worked together. The mystery of the missing duchess, the outings in London, the quiet alone moments really illustrated an array of circumstances and I truly believed that Simon and Sarah were perfect together.
Sarah's position as a gardener's daughter, and later as a lady's companion, made their relationship difficult and certainly unacceptable in society's eyes and while their eventual happy ending is unrealistic, I absolutely loved it. I loved that he stuck up for her against people, that he supported her and never let her insecurities stand in the way of her happiness. The book was very emotional as well and there was wonderful angst over whether Simon would find away out of the blackmail and over the difference in their stations. There was some very hot sex in the novel and while I definitely wish there had been more, I understood the reason behind it being so brief. I enjoyed the plot involving the missing mother and their search to find her, although I found it weird that they weren't more concerned about her whereabouts and went on with their life. As usual Haymore did a wonderful job getting me excited for the upcoming novels in the series so I can discover what happened to the mother and because I already feel a connection to the other members of the Trent family.
Rating: A very romantic book with a wonderfully written romance between two great characters. Beautifully written and just all around a fun read.