Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill-prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing, Aria must embrace the unknown—armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.
Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.
When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as her father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.
Our story begins at a ball, where Aria Whitney, daughter of the celebrated antiquarian Gideon Whitney, is discovered snooping in the Duke of Ravensdale's bedroom and mistaken for his mistress by Adam Willoughby, the Earl of Merewood. And he's none too happy considering the duke is about to marry his sister. In the process of extricating herself from a sticky situation, Aria captures the earl's interest, and he determines to get to the bottom of what she was really doing in his future brother-in-law's bedroom. But even though Adam is strong and handsome and makes her think improper thoughts, he's a distraction Aria can't afford. She's racing against time to find any clue that could help her determine what happened the night her father's Egyptian campsite was robbed and destroyed and he disappeared without a trace. Armed with a list of his investors and the whispers of a dying man, she's infiltrating the uncharted waters of the ton to figure out which one of them had the motive and the means to betray her father. But the earl keeps popping up, charming her one moment and asking her pesky questions the next, and she realizes he has access to the very men she needs to investigate, and he could be her best hope of finding her father before it's too late. When they are caught together in a compromising position, she has no choice but to allow Adam to help her in her in quest for the truth. Alternately exasperating and arousing each other, the two work together to find Aria's father, winding through ballrooms and gamerooms, gardens and clubhouses, Aria fighting her attraction to Adam, Adam trying to convince her to trust him and trying desperately to keep her safe as her search for the truth turns deadly.
I really, really wanted to love this book. It's one I put on my wishlist the moment I saw it was being released. But I had no idea it was a sequel, and I wish I had so I could have read the first book because I missed out on a dramatic sequence of events that was still hanging over the characters in this book. I had also hoped the story would focus a bit more on the archaeology work Aria did with her father, adding more history and a touch of the exotic, but their lives' work is just a backdrop for Aria's search for answers in London high society. The pacing is quick and even throughout, clipping along, narrowing in on the man who could be responsible for her father's disappearance. There's a twist and a turn (not unexpected but still good), Aria's in danger, and some pretty serious stuff goes down in the climactic moments, and that's followed by some realistic emotional fallout. But after all our hero and heroine go through to finally come together for their happily ever after, the ending of the story was really lacking in substance and emotional payoff. I felt gypped, like I'd been denied the resolution of the romance, and that was disappointing.
My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
*This review was originally posted to Romantic Historical Reviews.