Good book. I've been looking forward to this story since seeing Gwyn and Joshua in the first book, Project Duchess. The sparks between them were evident even then and burst into full flame in this book.
The story opens as Gwyn attempts to deal with a past indiscretion that has come back to haunt her. Her confrontation with her blackmailer is interrupted by Joshua Wolfe, the estate gamekeeper. Believing that the man intends to kidnap Gwyn to gain her dowry, Gwyn's brother, the Duke of Thornstock, hires Joshua to act as a bodyguard for Gwyn while she is in London.
At thirty years old, Gwyn is no longer a naÃ¯ve young miss. Past experience has made her cynical about men, a feeling reinforced by the parade of fortune hunters she meets in London. She is spunky and not afraid to stand up for herself and go after what she wants. And what she wants turns out to be Joshua.
Joshua is a gruff, grumpy war hero, injured in the war against Napoleon. On half-pay from the Royal Marines, he is determined to get back on active duty. In the meantime, he works as the gamekeeper on Thornstock's estate. He is attracted to Gwyn but believes that his injuries and the differences between them prevent a relationship.
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Gwyn and Joshua. The sparks are there from the beginning, and I loved watching them build. One of the things I liked best about Gwyn was that she didn't look down on Joshua for being the gamekeeper. He is the grandson of a duke and a war hero, and that is enough for her. She is also not put off by his injuries and is quite protective of him when she thinks he is being slighted. I liked how she saw the man beneath the grumpy exterior. I especially enjoyed her attempts to make him laugh and how good it made her feel when she succeeded. I loved Joshua's protectiveness toward Gwyn, which goes far beyond his bodyguard duties. He senses from the start that there is more to the story with Captain Malet than Gwyn or Thorn has shared with him. It was fun to see Joshua thwart Gwyn's attempts to get around him. I loved seeing them grow to trust each other and the boost that trust gave to the feelings that grew between them. I ached for Gwyn as her love for Joshua grew because she was afraid that if he knew everything about her past, he would reject her. The ending was great, as all the secrets were revealed and dealt with, and love conquered all.
The storyline with Captain Malet was excellent. His history with Gwyn created a lot of tension. There was Gwyn's fear that he would expose their past, not just ruining her, but also affecting her entire family. This wasn't his only run-in with Gwyn's family, as he also made an appearance in Seduction on a Snowy Night, Heywood and Cass's story. To complicate matters further, Joshua was also tasked with looking into Malet by the War Department. The final confrontation with Malet was intense. I loved how it worked out - Gwyn made me grin over what she did.
One of the best things about this series is the complexity of the family dynamics. One woman who has had three different husbands, all dukes. Five children by those three men, three of them now dukes in their own right. I loved the teasing and evident love among the family members and the way they support each other. The relationship between Gwyn and her brother has been strained, and we finally find out why. There are also ongoing questions and suspicions about the fathers' deaths that seem to run across the series. Looking forward to how that will play out.