Good romance with an undercurrent of mystery. Lady Lydia has been married multiple times. Three of her husbands were dukes; their titles passed down to the oldest sons born of those marriages, forming a dynasty of dukes. Recently several of the children began to suspect that their fathers' deaths may not have been accidents. The oldest son, the Duke of Greycourt, believes his father may have been poisoned, and asks Olivia Norley to use her chemist skills to discover the truth.
Grey's younger brother, "Thorn," the Duke of Thornstock, is not happy with Olivia's involvement. Nine years earlier, they had an encounter that damaged both their reputations. Thorn still believes Olivia was guilty of setting him up and is determined to keep an eye on her.
Olivia has no interest in the society to which she belongs. Her passion is reserved for all things scientific. Grey's request will advance her plans to make a name for herself in the field. Having Thorn always underfoot is a distraction she doesn't need.
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Olivia and Thorn. I loved their first meeting. Olivia is young and only interested in cleaning up the mess she caused. Thorn is a little older but still young and a bit full of himself. Sparks fly between them, and a quick kiss rapidly intensifies. When caught by Olivia's stepmother, she attempts to force Thorn to "do the right thing." This doesn't go the way anyone expects. Thorn is left with conflicting feelings of relief and anger, as well as betrayal.
Nine years later, neither has forgotten that encounter. Olivia concentrated on her desire to be a chemist and avoided society as much as possible. Thorn has lived up to his reputation as a rake, but still carries a grudge against Olivia and her mother. He deals with that grudge in an unusual way, but he is still extremely suspicious of Olivia and her motives. He even goes so far as to insist on helping set up her laboratory at Grey's estate, sure that he will discover that she is a fraud. I had to laugh at how hard she made him work until he had to admit that he was wrong. This also opened the door to them clearing the air over the events of nine years earlier, enabling them to work together in harmony.
But underneath their fledgling friendship, there bubbles an intense attraction. Thorn is well aware of his effect on Olivia and takes advantage of it whenever he can. He is determined to get her into his bed, though marriage is the last thing on his mind. The feelings Thorn stirs in her are new to Olivia, and her scientific curiosity demands that she investigate them thoroughly. She hasn't shown any interest in marriage either, to her stepmother's dismay, as she doesn't want to give up her career goals to a husband. The more time they spend together, the more their thinking begins to change. Thorn's feelings turn protective when an explosion in Olivia's lab makes it clear that someone doesn't want her to find the truth.
I loved seeing Thorn's protectiveness and the care he takes to protect her reputation, too. I had to laugh at the teasing he endured from his siblings because of it. As close as Olivia has started to feel to Thorn, she also senses that there is something that he is holding back. I ached for Thorn and the lengths he went to in order to protect his secret. As he and Olivia grow closer, he fears that revealing that secret would hurt her and drive her away from him. I hurt for both of them when she discovered the truth. Each of them had some serious self-examination to do before they realized that they belonged together. I loved their big moment at the end and seeing what happens when they talk about expectations.
The overarching mystery regarding the deaths of the various dukes makes some significant progress thanks to Olivia's talents. Though they are closer to the truth, their best lead ended up dead. I liked the epilogue as the siblings meet to discuss what they know, what they suspect, and where they should go next. I have my suspicions as to the culprit behind the deaths and can't wait to see if I am right. It will be hard to wait until next summer for the next book.