Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (November 27, 2007)
Publisher: Avon (November 27, 2007)
“I am many things,” Lord Sheene said. “Kind is not one of them.”
Beautiful Grace Paget has no reason to doubt these words. After all, she was kidnapped, spirited away to a remote country manor, and told she is to grant this man his every desire… or lose her life. But Grace is no common trollop. So she risks everything to save her virtue by planning a daring escape, even though she finds herself tempted by this dangerously handsome man. There is something in his eyes that makes her wonder if he is not as cruel as he would have her believe…
Sheene knew nothing of the plan to bring him this woman. Locked up as a prisoner, called “mad” by all of society, he will do anything to reclaim his life, and Grace’s sensuous beauty has distracted him from his goals. And although he finds her irresistible, he is horrified to hold her against her will. Now, together, they must both revolt against the strange set of circumstances that have forced them together - for only then will Grace truly surrender to him… forever.
We first meet Grace Paget as she wakes up and discovers she has just been kidnapped and brought to the home of Matthew Lansdowne, Marquess of Sheene, with the intention that he use her for his own pleasure. Lord Sheene is considered to be mad and is kept as a prisoner in his own home. Neither one of them is happy with these current circumstances; Grace seeks to escape, and Matthew seeks to stay as far away from the beautiful widow as he can manage, despite how much he wants her.
At first Matthew believes Grace to be in collusion with his cruel and greedy uncle, and that it's just another way to control him. But Grace truly is a poor widow who has been mistaken for a prostitute when she gets lost in a bad part of town trying to locate a family member and ends up asking the wrong people for help. She's frightened but determined to survive and find her way out of this situation, no matter how hopeless it seems. She refuses to let herself be ruined, no matter how attractive she finds Matthew.
So for a time, they exist together in their prison, an uneasy truce between them until Mathew's uncle shows up and tells Grace that unless she beds his nephew, she will no longer be of any use to him and will end up dead. Terrified, knowing that Matthew doesn't want to give in to his uncle's demands, Grace nevertheless sets out to seduce the striking, virile young man she's imprisoned with, knowing that there are some things worse than death.
Despite their reluctance, the one thing that cannot be denied is the burning attraction between them. Both Grace and Matthew are young, healthy, and keenly aware of the physical beauty of the other, and strongly compelled to act on their attraction. Neither expects to fall in love, but they do, and once their feelings are revealed, it becomes clear that they cannot continue to exist in Matthew's prison and remain safe. Matthew devises a plan to help Grace escape, knowing that as long as she is free, he can survive what he must do to help her. Grace promises to come back for him, but neither really anticipate just how cruel his uncle can be. It's a race against time for Grace, who desperately tries to save her beloved before he truly does go mad....
I really loved this book. It's the kind of story that has you turning the pages, anxiously wondering what is going to happen next. I understood the hesitation Matthew had to trust anyone - since the age of 14 he's only known a lonely, horrible existence without love or companionship, so for him to reach out to Grace was a huge step for him. Despite the way he's lived his life, Matthew is an honorable, generous young man more concerned with others than he is with himself. Definitely a worthy hero, not weak to have such compassion but strong to have endured the life he's been forced to live, no thanks to the greed of his uncle John.
Grace herself has only known disappointment and poverty for the nine years she's been married. Once a spoiled young girl, Grace has had to grow up fast when the man she marries is not the upstanding man she thought he was. But Grace is not one to dwell on what she can't change. Her marriage has her growing up fast, and she finds within herself an amazing strength and determination that she may have never discovered otherwise. Loving Matthew is a huge risk, but she knows that it's nothing compared to the suffering he's been through. Leaving him to find help is the hardest thing she's ever had to do, but she knows it's the only way to get the help she needs to save him.
At one point, despite her love, Grace turns Matthew away "for his own good". Usually the plot device of having one character playing the martyr is annoying and silly, but because of Matthew's limited interaction with others, it makes complete sense. Their story is bittersweet and romantic, and it was a sad thing to have to see it come to an end. Matthew and Grace have such little joy together during their imprisonment, but oh how beautiful those moments were. I felt both characters were wonderful, strong, and real. Their imprisonment did not come across as romantic, but their feelings for each other certainly were. It was a true delight, and one I highly recommend. I anxiously look forward to Anna Campbell's next book
Rating: ***** out of *****