Count Geraud Durand is the first secretary to the French ambassador, and since the ambassador's return to France, Durand is running the embassy as the charge d'affaires. The position gives the man a great deal of power and certain immunity. Upon meeting Clarissa, he's become obsessed with making her his wife--something both Clarissa and her family have made very clear is not an alliance they wish to pursue. Since her refusal of his proposal, however, he's become increasingly daring and crafty in his attempts to get her into a compromising position with the intent of forcing her hand. So when Clarissa's guardian needs to leave the country on another urgent family matter, he asks his good friend, Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakesborough, to be Clarissa's stand-in guardian and keep Clarissa safe from Durand's unsavory pursuits. It's a position that becomes increasingly complicated as Edwin finds himself falling for the beautiful young heiress.
I personally adore stories where the hero and heroine seem like total opposites only to find when the two are forced to endure each others company that they have more in common then they ever could have imagined. This is such a story. Clarissa is the Regency version of a modern day party girl. She loves to socialize, dance, drink campaign, and have a good time. Yet underneath her party girl facade she's a very intelligent woman who is a tad bit lonely even though she doesn't realize it. Edwin, on the other hand, would be considered by all to be a stick in the mud. He's much too serious and really needs someone to shake him up and teach him how to enjoy life. We were first introduced to him in the fourth book of The Duke's Men series, If the Viscount Falls, and ever since I've been eagerly awaiting his story. Thankfully, Ms. Jeffries didn't disappoint.
The situation with Count Durand is rather twisted and scary. It makes one realize just how vulnerable women of the Regency time period were. Can you imagine being forced to marry your attacker because society dictates it or being shunned for being a victim of someone's unsavory advances that you never encouraged? Women and their rights have come a long way and while Ms. Jeffries may use such things to her advantage in her books, she never lets the story go completely dark. She tends to use these types of situations to add a touch of drama and suspense to her tales which I thoroughly enjoy.
I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed the story and the engaging characters. I loved how this book has a true hero, and while Clarissa is a strong, smart, and capable of taking care of herself, sometimes even the most self sufficient among us needs a little help when dealing with a seemingly unbalanced individual. Additionally, there were a lot of secrets and backstories that needed to be uncovered before all the pieces of what was going on fell into place which added a nice amount of suspense and a dash of intrigue. Plus, there was a major plot twist that I really liked. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.