This is the last book in the Sinful Suitors series, and returns a long lost character back to England. There had been mentions of him in previous books in the series, so I was interested to see how it would play out. Niall Lindsay, Earl of Margrave, has been in exile for seven years after killing a man in a duel. He was a young man at the time, and the duel was over the man raping his sister Clarissa, a fact that his family wanted to keep secret to protect her honor. At the time of his departure, he was involved with Brilliana Payne, but their romance was also a secret due to the fact she’d not come out yet in society. He urges her to run away with him, and she is tempted but can’t leave her sick mother in the hands of her gambling father. They vow to be together as soon as she can find a way to leave.
Fast forward seven years, and Brilliana is now a widow with a young son and Niall has returned to England after a pardon is granted thanks to his work as a spy. He’s taken his rightful place as the earl, and after seeing Brilliana (nicknamed Bree) again is smitten with her beauty. She is shocked to see him, and has been heartbroken about losing him. They are both under false information about their situations – Bree was told that Niall fought over a mistress, and Niall was told that Bree only wanted him for the title and money. Not long after Niall left England, Bree married Reynold Trevor at the urging of her father, to settle some gambling debts. It wasn’t a happy marriage, and Reynold died after falling into the river which may have been a suicide. Now neither of them is certain they want to be involved again, despite the sexual attraction they still have for each other.
Enter Lord Fulkham, spymaster and the man responsible for Niall’s freedom. He wants Niall to fake an engagement to Bree in order to get close to her father who may or may not be involved with a counterfeit ring. Bree is encouraged to go along with this plan to keep her father from being convicted and hung if he is guilty. And so this plot goes, having the two of them in constant proximity and fanning the flames of desire. Bree gives in to his seductive persuasion fairly easily, even though she had vowed not to believing he dueled over a mistress (and believing he must have had dozens of other women in his bed while he was in Spain); for his part Niall wants to tell her the truth about said duel but is bound to secrecy by his brother-in-law who fears that Clarissa will lose the baby she’s carrying over such unsettling talk…because women are such weak creatures (insert eye roll here).
Overall it was fine for a second chance at love story, but it was bogged down too much with miscommunication and stubbornness.