In 1728, THORNE NEVILLE leaves Oxford University and one devastated courtesan to take his deceased father’s title, occupation, estate and advice–that being to marry the Viscount Radleigh’s convent-schooled daughter, and thus spare himself the potential heartache of a love match. Having watched his father grieve away eighteen years for his dead mother, Thorne grimly understood that advice–though he doubts it will matter. His own heart was buried years ago, along with his childhood love.
But Thorne is about to learn that fate doesn’t bow to plans, and that denying his heart will cost not only him, but others as well. The lesson involves four strong-willed women: KATY, the spirited courtesan who loves him and plots to conceive his child; GWYNNETH, the rebellious wife whose preference for convent vows over marriage vows makes Thorne’s domestic life hell; CAROLINE, the sultry socialite who not only schemes with Thorne’s half-brother to ruin him, but tries to seduce Thorne while pretending to be Gwynneth’s dearest friend; and ELAINE, the chambermaid who must at all costs keep Thorne from guessing her true identity.
As Thorne’s carefully constructed world disintegrates in a succession of murder, rape, suicide and betrayal, he must begin the painful recovery of his heart, in order to rediscover the woman who has held it for so long.
Eight years ago, Fianna Morgan defied royal forest law and her father by entering Dinsmore Wood – and then ran for her life after witnessing a crime. Since that day, she has kept a hopeful eye out for the young man who saved her life, swore her to secrecy, and disappeared into the forest.
Now nineteen, Fianna is burned out of her tenant home and forced to serve Lord Graham at Dinsmore Hall – where she recognizes his son, Gareth, as her rescuer from Dinsmore Wood.
Yet Gareth claims he has never met Fianna. Confusing her even more, he seems concerned for her safety, but acts rude and distant; nothing like her caring rescuer of eight years ago.
Determined to make Gareth acknowledge their past connection, Fianna corners him – and gets far more than she bargained for.