Samuel Charles Aubrey St. Aldwyn, Duke of Gravenhurst, is a radical rogue and champion of unpopular causes. No one would dream that he is also the author of a bestselling series of dark historical novels, a writer accused of corrupting the morals of the public, and a master seducer who counts among his passionate fans wellborn Miss Lily Boscastle. But Lily is no stranger to disrepute.
When her engagement to another man ends in a tarnished image and public disgrace, Lily is forced to seek employment outside London -- as housekeeper for Gravenhurst himself. Her sharp wit and sensuality appeal to his wicked instincts -- and she's a perfect match for every beguiling move he makes. Yet there's more to him than Lily imagined -- a secret known to few living souls, ghosts from the past that haunt both of their futures in ways too dangerous for even the duke to have invented.
This was a really fun book to read, with a very unusual hero. Samuel is a duke with something of a wicked personal reputation, a radical political reputation, and a secret known to very few. He is the anonymous author of a series of gothic novels that have as many detractors as fans. One of his biggest fans is Lily Boscastle.
Both of them attend a literary masquerade ball, where they have a brief encounter and an instant connection. Samuel is instantly smitten by Lily's beauty and wit, and leaves the ball determined to pay court to her. But Lily's engagement to another man is due to be announced the next day, so he leaves London to return to his home in Dartmoor and continue with his writing. Being the romantic that he is, he leaves instructions for her to be watched over in case she ever needs his help.
Lily is intrigued by the man she met at the ball. He's one of the few men she's met who admits to reading novels. She gives in to the desire for a kiss from him, even though she knows she's promised to another. It's an eye opening occurrence that she does her best to forget over the next couple weeks, as plans are made for her wedding. Lily calls off her engagement shortly before the wedding when she witnesses her fiance kill a man, then attempt to cover it up. No one will believe her about what she has seen, and blames her for the scandal of her engagement's end.
Desperate to get away from London and the gossip, Lily applies for a job as a housekeeper at a remote estate. She has no idea that it is Samuel's home until she gets there. Once there she is committed to the job for at least a year. His house and his staff are unlike anything she expected and soon she's trying to find out just what is going on.
I loved the growth of their relationship. Samuel is in love from the beginning and willing to do whatever necessary to win his fair lady. He goes a little overboard at first, trying a scenario from one of his books, but that doesn't go over very well. Lily has been burned by her love of novels, as everyone blames that love for her actions regarding her engagement, so she tries to remain practical rather than romanced. Samuel's willingness to believe her story goes a long way toward softening her attitude. Samuel guards his secret until he's sure that he can trust her with it, but then does his big reveal in novel worthy manner. Knowing his secret and hearing his intentions toward her opens her heart to him even more. I loved their interactions, from their love scenes to the conversations about his book and the trouble he is having with the end of it.
It was interesting to see how Samuel seemed to be in a constant battle with the various parts of himself. His two main characters seemed to be differing sides of his personality and he couldn't decide which he really wanted to be. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him work out the various scenes, and loved the way his staff was so involved with him. When Lily's past makes an unwelcome appearance, everything comes together for him to save the day.
I really enjoyed the ending and seeing their fairy tale come true. It was nice to see that Lily was vindicated in the eyes of her family. I loved the epilogue and seeing the literary process still continued with just as much exuberance as before.