He's never forgotten her. But can he forgive her?
When Alastair Ransleigh sees Diana, Duchess of Graveston, for the first time since she jilted him, he makes her a shockingly insulting offer…the chance to become his mistress. And even more shockingly, she accepts!
But the widowed duchess is nothing like the bold, passionate girl Alastair once loved. Years of suffering at the hands of a cruel husband have taken their toll. And as Alastair resolves to save Diana from the damage of the past, their chance meeting turns feelings of revenge to thoughts of rescue…
Good book, as a reunion story with a bit of suspense added for intensity. Eight years earlier Alastair and Diana had been in love and engaged, until she jilted him and married a duke instead. Devastated, hurt, confused and angry, Alastair spent the next years serving in the military. He didn't care what happened to him and as a result took on many dangerous or hopeless missions, earning himself quite a reputation.
He has returned to England to take up his life now that the war is over. His sister has invited him to visit her in Bath and is trying hard to get him to find a woman for him to marry. Because of his past, he has sworn never to give his heart again, and cloaks his mistrust of women in rakish behavior. He is stunned to encounter the newly widowed Diana and discovers that his attraction to her is as strong as ever. Determined to root her out of his system, he offers her the position of his mistress, expecting to tire of her quickly. He's shocked when she accepts.
Diana had been forced to marry her late husband because of threats he made against the people she loved. In the eight years of her marriage her husband had isolated her from everyone she knew, denied her the chance to participate in her hobbies, and then used her love for her son to take him away also. When her husband died, she took her son and fled to Bath, needing to get away from the bad memories. As soon as she saw Alastair, she knew she had to tell him why she had treated him so badly. He was skeptical of her story, and when she said she'd do anything to make it up to him, agreed to be his mistress.
Though Alastair starts out merely wanting a taste of revenge and the chance to purge Diana from his memories and heart, he begins to suspect that she had actually been brutally honest about her marriage. She is nothing like the girl he remembers and fell in love with, with her joy in life ruthlessly suppressed. Though he resists trusting her with his heart again, he can't help being moved by everything she's gone through. He becomes determined to see her return to her former self before he ends their association. And when she is threatened with charges of murder and loss of custody of her son, Alastair can no longer deny that he wants more than just a bed partner.
Diana is an incredibly strong woman who has done what she needed to protect her family and those she cared about. I loved seeing some of the things she did, fighting back in the only way she could. She has spent so long suppressing her emotions and hiding what she has gone through, that she has a great deal of trouble opening up to Alastair, even when their relationship starts to change. It isn't until her son is threatened that she can force herself to reveal all.
I loved seeing Alastair's feelings change from the need for revenge to the need to protect. It takes him awhile to realize that he had never stopped loving Diana, but once he does he goes all out to protect her. I loved seeing him confront the new duke and then go on to pursue the ammunition he needs. I loved seeing him bring in Will from The Rake to Redeem Her to help with his search. I also loved his sensitivity in knowing that, as much as he wants her, he has to give her the space to finish her recovery before he can tell her how he feels.
I loved seeing Diana slowly begin to trust that Alastair really did want to help her. She had never stopped loving him, but had had to bury her emotions very, very deep in order to survive her marriage. She tried very hard to keep her relationship with Alastair limited to only the physical, but it got harder each time they were together. She still wanted to protect him from the threats made against her and it took awhile for her to realize that he was more than able to handle them. I loved seeing her finally able to let go of her fears and start to live her life again. While it was frustrating to see her push him away at the end, why she did it made perfect sense. Seeing her finally able to accept his love at the end was wonderful.
One of the things I liked most about this story was the strong sense of family. Diana gave up everything in order to protect those she loved. She was also willing to put herself at risk in order to continue that protection. On Alastair's side, I loved his sister's protectiveness, even though it was against Diana it was for all the right reasons. It was wonderful to see how his mother supported him in his wish to protect Diana, even though she too had reservations at the beginning. Will's willingness to do whatever Alastair needed was just more evidence of how the Rogues are there for each other. Even the formerly estranged uncle had his chance to show his support.