This is the first in a new series by Lorraine Heath, featuring the Hellions of Havisham. The first of these Hellions is Nicholson Lambert, the Duke of Ashebury. He lost his parents in a gruesome train accident and was sent to the country to be raised by the Marquess of Marsden. Along with him were the Earl of Grayling and his twin brother, orphaned in the same accident. Their parents appointed the Marquess of Marsden their guardian, unaware that Marsden was driven pretty much out of his mind after the death of his wife, leaving him in no fit state to raise even his own son, let alone three other boys. As a result, Ashebury and his three friends, close as brothers, were allowed to run entirely wild and as grown men, they all have quite the reputations.
The Earl of Grayling is the only one happily married, none of the other Hellions are intending to settle down or looking for spouses. Having seen how loss and heartbreak drove Marsden insane, Ashebury has no plans to ever allow himself to fall for a woman. He prefers to travel the world, exploring and adventuring, taking beautiful and striking photographs to document his journeys. When he’s in London, he indulges in tasteful nude photography for his private collection, hoping that images of physical perfection may eventually supplant the nightmare visions of hideous, mangled bodies that he’s haunted by.
Miss Miranda Dodger is the daughter of one of the richest men in England. Her enormous dowry has made her a favourite target for greedy gold diggers, so much so that she even wrote a book on how to spot and avoid fortune hunters. At the age of 28, she has yet to find a man who she trust actually likes her for who she is rather than the ridiculous amounts of money she’ll bring to a marriage. With her father’s head for business and very firm opinions, that she refuses to keep to herself, she’s acquired a reputation as a fierce blue-stocking. She’s also convinced that she’s very plain and that no man would find her beautiful if she didn’t have money. She despairs at ever finding the great love her parents or her brother and best friend share. She wants to experience passion, lose her virginity and feel desired. So she gains access to the Nightingale Club, where society ladies don masks to protect their identities and seek out lovers for uncomplicated liaisons. Miranda figures that the mask will not only protect her from scandal, but ensure that the gentleman in question sees only her, not her money. It will also allow her to feel more confident, as her homely features will be hidden.
Miranda and Ashe meet at the club. Ashe wants to photograph Miranda’s ankles. She thinks he’s gorgeous and is more than happy for him to be the man to deflower her. Posing for a naughty photograph, however, makes her nervous. When Ashe discovers that the mysterious Lady V is actually a virgin, he sends her home, saying she should spend her first time with someone she at least cares for, not a complete stranger. They do share a scorching kiss before they part, though.
Ashe becomes determined to discover the true identity of his mystery woman with the perfect ankles and it doesn’t take him long before he’s almost confident that the unconventional Miss Dodger and Lady V are one and the same.
Full review here.