Secrets of the marriage bed…
Heiress Adelaide Ashfield lost her trust in men years ago. She spurns the advances of society's most eligible bachelors, but time is running out. Forced to make her choice, Adelaide accepts the hand of Gabriel Hughes, Earl of Wesley.
Despite his debauched reputation, Gabriel shies away from intimacy. But his marriage to Adelaide awakens a desire he never thought he'd feel again. Maybe his beguiling new bride is the key to shaking off the shame which has haunted him for so long…
Good book, with a tortured hero in need of the right woman to bring him out of the darkness. He is dealing with a problem rarely seen in romance novels. For the last several years, he has been working for the government in an attempt to stop those who would help the French. Rather than send him to work undercover in France or Spain, he was asked to use his skills as a ladies man to woo secrets from the wives of those suspected to be traitors. With the end of the war, his job is done except for one last task of identifying the members of a group of English traitors. But the wooing of one woman goes horrifically wrong and she dies in a fire that also injures him.
Gabriel is haunted by the idea that he is responsible for her death, even though he has no memories of the fire itself. Because of those guilty feelings he can't bring himself to get close to any woman, and fears that he never will. All he can do is continue his search and hope the satisfaction of revenge will be enough. When he meets Adelaide there's a small flame of hope that all is not lost.
Adelaide has grown up in the country, happy in her study of herbs and healing and treating the people on her uncle's estate. After an attack by a suitor years ago, she no longer trusts the intentions of any man. Forced into a London season by her uncle, she has no interest in finding a husband and does her best to discourage those who pursue her. When it becomes obvious she has no choice, she looks to the one man who seems to like her for who she is.
I really liked Adelaide a lot. She has no interest in the shallow pursuits of the other debutantes and just wants to be left alone to do what makes her happy. Thanks to the training she has received from her aunts, she is an excellent observer of human behavior, and when she meets Gabriel she senses that there is more to him than most people see. There is an immediate connection between them.
I liked the development of the relationship between them. Because of his problem, Gabriel doesn't exhibit the lust that she has experienced from other men. This makes her more comfortable in his presence. Adelaide also has no desire to hide her intelligence, and several conversations with Gabriel show her that he is a man that is easy for her to talk to. At the same time, Gabriel enjoys being able to have an actual conversation with a woman. He doesn't expect to feel a certain amount of possessiveness toward her, and is surprised by how much he dislikes the idea of her marrying any of the men pursuing her. I loved the way that he proposed to her himself, trying to convince himself that he was doing it to keep her from being unhappy with those others.
I loved the fact that he was open with her about his work with the government, even though he couldn't bring himself to explain his problem to her. He was still determined to do his best for her. I also liked her sensitivity to his moods, and how she could lighten his cares, at least for awhile. She slowly worked her way past his defenses until he was able to open up completely to her. I loved the way that she fully accepted him just as he was and made it clear that it changed nothing.
With the slow return of some of his memories it became clear that one of her rejected suitors was also one of the men he was searching for, Gabriel feared for her safety. Realizing his true feelings for her, he was determined to end the threat before she could be placed in danger. When she was taken in spite of his precautions, all he could think about was saving her. The final confrontation brought the rest of his memories flooding back, and with them the realization that his guilt had been misplaced. The release of those fears also ended the problem that had kept him from fully loving Adelaide. Everything was tied up neatly, and perhaps too easily, but it was still satisfying. I hope to see them again in later books of the series.
I loved the relationship between Gabriel and his friends. It was great to see their concern for him and how they tried to be there for him if he wanted to talk. I loved the dinner party where Daniel and Amethyst invited Adelaide, just because Gabriel asked them to. I especially liked seeing the way his friends and their families took to Adelaide and made her part of their group so quickly. That connection came in quite handy when she ended up delivering Amethyst's baby. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.