A story that breaks all the rules...
With his beloved sister tainted by scandal, his widowed brother shattered by grief , and his funds cut off, Darius Lindsey sees no option but to sell himself -- body and soul. Until the day he encounters lovely, beguiling Lady Vivian Longstreet, whose tenderness and understanding wrap his soul in a grace he knows he'll never deserve...
Excellent book with a very different premise. Darius is the second son of an earl, one whose father has cut him off financially. He has a small manor house and some land, and people he cares for and feels responsible for. The only way he can make any money is to make himself available to bored society women.
Vivian is the young second wife to elderly Lord William Longstreet. He married her after the death of his first wife, in order to protect her from her nasty stepfather. William is still in love with his first wife, and realizes that he's nearing the end of his life. If he dies without an heir, his lands and wealth will revert to the Crown, something he cannot accept. So he goes to Darius and offers him a large sum of money to get Vivian pregnant.
Though not entirely comfortable with the idea, Darius is desperate to escape the clutches of the two women he is currently employed by. Vivian is also uncomfortable, but she cares for William and understands what he is trying to do. The initial meeting between Darius and Vivian is awkward, but they agree to terms and make their arrangements.
I really liked Darius. He hates what he does, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family. When Vivian arrives at his home in Kent, he is quite sensitive to her fears and discomfort. I loved seeing the way he worked to show her that it could be a pleasurable interlude for both of them. Normally he is able to keep his emotions out of his encounters, but with Vivian he isn't able to do that. I loved the way that he was determined that she feel all the pleasure that is possible, and also to show her that she is an intelligent and capable woman who can do anything. He can see that she will need the skills to stand up for herself and protect her child once her husband is gone. He doesn't expect to fall for her, and the thought of having to give her up at the end of the month is tearing him up.
I also liked Vivian. She starts out as very shy and self-effacing. She is wary of the things that Darius makes her feel. They spend the first few days just getting to know each other, and she discovers that there is much more to Darius than she expected. Seeing the way he cares for the people who inhabit his home makes her realize that he is a man she can trust. That trust makes it a little easier for her to accept what they must do, and she soon learns much about her own feelings and responses. The "baby-making" scenes are both incredibly sexy and really sweet. I loved the way that she saw the good in Darius and tried to show him that he is better than what he has been forced to do. Leaving him at the end of the month is hard, and the reality of not seeing him anymore is hard for her to take.
Once they are back in London, they are not supposed to see each other again. Vivian doesn't want to accept that and manages to find ways to encounter Darius. But seeing him return to the two society women hurts terribly, and she is torn about how to handle it. Darius wants to escape them, but their threats against his family have his hands tied for awhile. I loved seeing him finally muster up the determination to escape, and how he did it was extremely satisfying. Though they do have several meetings, both Darius and Vivian are honorable people, and they are very careful to stick to friendship.
I loved Lord William. He has never loved anyone but his first wife and misses her desperately. What he has with Vivian is actually a beautiful friendship, but he knows without an heir she will be in dire straits when he dies. Even though what he was doing was basically dishonest, his reasons were good. I really liked his treatment of Darius, and as the book went on it became obvious that he also had a secondary motive for his actions. I loved the way that he mentored Darius through some financial waters, and how he made sure to keep Darius involved in Vivian's life. It became obvious that he had a secondary motive to his actions, and one that he had great confidence in.
Darius's protective nature comes fully to the surface once Vivian has the baby. I loved seeing him with the child and the obvious adoration he has for it. It only serves to make Vivian love him more. And when William dies, it is up to Darius to keep Vivian and the baby safe. I loved seeing how he did it, and the confrontation with Vivian's nasty stepfather was so very satisfying.