He first spies her in the shadows outside a London theatre, a ravishing creature forced to barter her body to survive.
To the woman known simply as Fleur, the well-dressed gentleman with the mesmerizing eyes is an unlikely savior. And when she takes the stranger to her bed, she never expects to see him again. But then Fleur accepts a position as governess to a young girl…and is stunned to discover that her midnight lover is a powerful nobleman. As two wary hearts ignite–and the threat of scandal hovers over them–one question remains: will she be mistress or wife?
Fleur is on the run. She's accidentally killed a man and has run to London to escape her fate. With no references and eventually no food she does the only thing she feels she can - she sells her body. Her first client ends up being the Duke of Ridgeway. He is married and this is the only time he's ever cheated on his wife. He ends up being angry at what he is doing and takes Fleur is rough manner. Fleur doesn't go back on the streets when she recovers but tries the employment agency one more time. She ends up finding employment as a governess and moves into a grand home in Doresetshire. Of course the home is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Ridgeway.
The Duchess is none too thrilled at having Fleur as governess but deals with it. When the Duke comes back from London the Duchess believes that the Duke has hired Fleur because she is his doxie. Fleur is shocked to see the awful, scarred man who took her virginity so horribly and is terribly scared of him. Despite her fear, however, she starts to see that he's not a bad person at all and cares deeply about people. She also comes to care deeply about her charge, Lady Pamela.
The Duke likes having Fleur as his daughter Pamela's governess. He enjoys listening to her give Pamela lessons. He tells himself that it's all for Pamela, but is it really? He doesn't want to admit that he's starting to have feelings for Fleur - but he is committed in his relationship with his wife. His wife however wants nothing to do with him, is revolted by him and his scarred face and hates him with everything she is. In fact so much so that they have never consummated their marriage. How, you may ask, could Pamela be his daughter then? Well, you see - Pamela is actually his brother's child but the Duke claims her as his own.
When Fleur's guardian, Matthew, finds Fleur at the Duke's residence he tries to blackmail her into marriage - which is what he was trying to do when she fled her real home originally. The Duke discovers what's happening and helps Fleur - but there is so much more behind the story.
I'm discovering that I really like Mary Balogh's writing. Although I've only read 2 of her books they've been told beautifully and they really pull me into the different settings. The ones I've read have not been simple stories at all, but intricate tales of love. The problems that I had with the book really didn't have anything to do with the writing or the story itself but more my own issues with infidelity in books. I don't like it. Usually when I see a book where I know there will be cheating I just don't read it. But when Jenre, who has this book on her DIK list, gave us a blurb of the book I got intrigued.
This was a very different type of book with infidelity in it. The Duke of Ridgeway, Adam Kent, had gone off in the infantry and comes home after a year of being thought dead. His half brother had assumed the position of Duke and was betrothed to Adam's once fiance, Sybil. The half brother takes off and leaves Sybil pregnant. She accepts Adam's proposal of marriage and Adam accepts the child as his own. But as I said, Sybil hates Adam because she is with Adam and not Thomas, his brother, and she believes that Adam has sent Thomas away. Adam doesn't love his wife but he is determined not to screw things up - unfortunately Fleur's presence in his home more or less undermines that. Fleur and Adam know that they can't be together - and it takes quite a long time for her to see the wonderful person that Adam is, but they can't stop loving each other.
This was a very good book with a lot going on. I did have times while reading when I was saying - no, don't do that (with regard to Adam and Fleur) but it was a beautiful love story - despite the infidelity issues.
Rating: 4 out of 5