Good story about two people who believe they are not worthy of being loved. It was a hard-fought battle for each of them to learn to see the good in themselves.
Violet is a young woman who has a couple of huge secrets that would do her reputation no good if revealed. Her plans for the future do not include a husband because she would have to tell him those secrets. However, after six unsuccessful Seasons, her father gives her an ultimatum: find a husband before the end of this Season, or be sent to her older sister and become a governess to Sophie's unruly children.
Seth became the earl after the death of his older brother. It meant giving up his commission in the army, which he put off as long as possible. He finally returned home after Waterloo to face the same disapproving attitude from his mother that he had suffered through as a child. Seth is determined to do his best to take care of his responsibilities, including looking for a wife.
Seth and Violet lived next door to each other in London. They were friends as children, with both developing crushes on each other when they were older. Seth promised the first dance of her debut ball to her, but then never showed up, breaking her heart. He left for the war the next day without even saying goodbye.
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Seth and Violet. Seth came back from the war a changed man. The thoughtless rebelliousness of his youth was burned away by his experiences during the war. He admits to the mistakes of his past and is determined to make up for them. His first meeting with Violet reveals one of those mistakes. His sincere regret for those actions goes a long way toward mending fences with her. He did not expect his old feelings for her to come rushing back. But Seth is haunted by the events of the war and his feelings of having let his men down. He feels he is broken beyond repair because of the nightmares and flashbacks he experiences.
Violet is wary of her feelings for Seth. She does not fit the current trend of thin women, a fact pointed out to her often by her mother. Violet doesn't believe him when he calls her beautiful. It takes advice from an unexpected source for her to overcome her mother's influence and see herself as others see her. She also gets a shock when, in a moment of self-examination, Violet realizes that some of the things she did with the best of intentions were not as helpful as she thought they were.
I liked seeing Seth and Violet spend time together. Neither one expected the sparks that flared between them. At first, he was simply trying to make amends, but he couldn't ignore the way she made him feel. I loved how he saw her as a beautiful woman and tried to make her see it too. It didn't take long for Violet to see that Seth had outgrown his rebellious youth and become an honorable man. I loved how their growing feelings helped them trust each other enough to share their painful pasts. I ached for Seth when he experienced flashbacks and loved how Violet was able to break through them. I also hurt for Violet, who made a mistake in her first Season that still haunts her. Seth didn't react so well to that secret, though he did quickly see his error and fix it. I laughed a little at the accelerating of their relationship, as the sparks between them flared at an awkward time. However, it took an unexpected and dangerous occurrence for them to admit their love to each other. I liked the epilogue, too.
There was a bit of mystery running through the book. Before Seth's return, the family solicitor absconded with his mother's jewels. One of Seth's priorities is to find the thief and reclaim the jewels. There is more to the story than he knows. Unexpected revelations regarding Seth's brother put a new spin on the theft and precipitate some changes in perceptions. The resolution of the theft provided a few moments of unexpected danger.
The secondary characters added some terrific moments of humor. First and foremost were Violet's niece Felicity and her cat Hedgehog. The cat was hilarious in its bonnets. Felicity tore at the heartstrings once the reasons behind her misbehavior were revealed. She was sweet and funny and frequently very observant. I liked Seth's sister Caroline. She obviously loves her brother and wants to help him with whatever is bothering him. She also has a mind of her own and surprises him with a somewhat shocking request. Seth's friend Lord Rawley was not what I expected, and I both ached and laughed over his problems with a certain lady.