Never let it be said that a Cynster male can't face up to the one unassailable truth: A successful marriage gives life its fullest meaning. To all of English society, Simon Frederick Cynster has a perfect life—one of enormous wealth and impeccable social status. His lean handsomeness turns the heads of naïve debutantes, while his sensual allure ensures he never lacks for more sophisticated partners for a night, or more, of pleasure. Yet despite all of this, Simon knows that there is something—or rather someone—missing in his life.
To achieve true contentment, Simon must find a lady accomplished enough to be his wife, someone who will spend her days as a member of one of England's most influential families ... and her nights pursuing duties of a more private—and personal—nature.
But Simon knows what to expect if he reveals his intention to choose a bride; nothing could be more tiresome than having every blushing miss on the marriage mart thrust upon him. So he discreetly begins his search at a house party at Glossup Hall . . . and is astonished that the lady who immediately captures his interest is Portia Ashford.
Simon has never considered Portia as a potential wife. He's known the raven-haired beauty since childhood; she's willfully independent and has always claimed to be uninterested in marriage. But an unexpectedly heated kiss abruptly alters the rules of their decade-long interaction. Soon they begin to long for the moments they can spend in each other's arms.
But all is not as it seems at Glossup Hall. As Simon and Portia begin to explore the depths of their mutual passion, a shocking murder is committed ... and it appears that the next victim will be Portia herself. And even more shocking than the fact that a murderer secretly walks among them is the realization that all of Simon's considerable strength and influence may not be enough to protect Portia—his once and always perfect lover . . .
A genteel party in England in 1835 becomes the setting for romance and a dash of violence as prolific romance author Laurens (On a Wicked Dawn) makes her hardcover debut, the 10th entry in a series about the arrogant Cynster males. Portia Ashford has one goal in mind as she accompanies her eccentric mentor, Lady Osbaldestone, to Glossup Hall in Dorset. Portia wants children, and has reluctantly accepted that she must marry in order to have them. She is determined to learn as much as possible about men, with an eye to choosing one. Also seeking a spouse at the gathering is a man whom she's detested since childhood, the self-satisfied Simon Cynster. He playfully tutors her on the subject of men while hiding his true intent, and he soon progresses far beyond the bounds of propriety. Portia plays along, unconcerned about pregnancy or social ostracism. When they're not thus frolicking, the couple glower disapprovingly at their married hostess, Kitty Glossup, who flings herself at male guests and a gardener or two. Half way through the book, Portia stumbles over Kitty's corpse and finds that she, too, is a target. Simon and Portia help a police inspector plan a scheme that causes further jeopardy for Portia, then a rousing conclusion and matrimonial bliss no surprise, given there was never any serious obstacle between the young lovers. As with Laurens's earlier titles, the generous doses of erotica will appeal to devotees of romantic suspense. 7-city author tour.