The second book in the “superbly entertaining” (Booklist) Regency historical series from New York Times bestselling author Julia London.
Tobin Scott, otherwise known as Count Eberlin of Denmark, has returned to Hadley Green, the site of his father’s hanging for thievery fifteen years ago. He has but one goal in mind, and that is to avenge his father, who he believes was innocent of stealing the Countess of Ashwood jewels. Now a wealthy man, Tobin intends to exact his revenge by destroying the Ashwood estate and the Countess of Ashwood, who as a young girl testified against his father.
Lily Boudine has become the Countess of Ashwood through a very surprising twist of fate. She is even more surprised when a vaguely familiar looking man calls and tells her he is Tobin Scott, whom she knew as a boy, and that he intends to destroy her or Ashwood. He leaves the choice to her. Because so many people depend on Ashwood, Lily chooses herself, thinking that she can hold him at bay long enough to remove Ashwood from his clutches. But as they play the game of seduction, and she slowly discovers that he is not the cold, heartless man he would like to present to her, she also believes that Tobin is right—his father did not steal the jewels. And if she can find them, she can help restore his family’s honor—but not before she discovers another shocking secret.
London follows The Year of Living Scandalously with a lovely Georgian-era romantic mystery that easily stands on its own. As a child, Tobin Scott saw his innocent father hang for stealing the countess of Ashwood's jewels, condemned by the testimony of young Lily Boudine, the countess's niece and ward. Fifteen years later, Lily reluctantly returns to Ashwood after inheriting the title and rundown estate. She is confronted by Tobin, now Count Eberlin, who is determined to have his vengeance. When Lily begs Tobin not to drive her to bankruptcy, his response is an indecent proposal: Lily's virtue for Ashwood's survival. As Lily struggles to buy time, the two find their adult emotions come into play as they agree to work together and find the missing jewels. The mystery isn't solved here, but London's story is satisfying as it builds on the excellent chemistry of the leads, gracefully unfolding with the perfect amount of tension.
Sexual intimidation and coercion... why?
Lots to like about this novel. Well drawn characters and an unusually complex and compelling plot for a romance novel, which is why I have it four starts, but I don’t think the initial “romance “ part will age particularly well. As part of a revenge plot the male lead gives the female lead a choice of either sexual surrender and ruination OR the financial destruction of her estate and all of the people who depend on her. Why?? He quickly regrets his action and makes amends but still...it left an icky after taste.