Love is hottest in the darkness before dawn.
Elissande Edgerton is a desperate woman, a virtual prisoner in the home of her tyrannical uncle. Only through marriage can she claim the freedom she craves. But how to catch the perfect man?
Lord Vere is used to baiting irresistible traps. As a secret agent for the government, he’s tracked down some of the most devious criminals in London, all the while maintaining his cover as one of Society’s most harmless—and idiotic—bachelors. But nothing can prepare him for the scandal of being ensnared by Elissande.
Forced into a marriage of convenience, Elissande and Vere are each about to discover that they’re not the only one with a hidden agenda. With seduction their only weapon—and a dark secret from the past endangering both their lives—can they learn to trust each other even as they surrender to a passion that won’t be denied?
Thomas employs grand misunderstanding (as she did in 2008’s Private Arrangements) to motivate this Victorian romance, which is replete with perfect period touches. The marquess of Vere fakes stupidity so no one will suspect he’s investigating Edmund Douglas for fraud—and murder. Douglas’s niece, Elissande, is thoroughly fooled and plots to snare the marquess and escape her vicious uncle. Through a comedy of accidents involving rats, spicy Victorian parlor games, and sneaking around hallways at night, Elissande tricks Vere into marriage. As attraction grows, she wants to admit her motivations, but Vere shuts his conniving bride out as Douglas swears revenge. Though both story line and misunderstandings feel contrived at times, Thomas writes with genuine wit and sympathy, and when hero and heroine actually connect, the humorous, graceful writing transcends a creaky plot. (June)