Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release Date: December 1, 2019 (for eBook)
Because living the humiliation wasn’t enough, Lady Eleanor Murray reads the words in the Lady Observer that truly place her firmly on the shelf – Ice Queen. Seemingly thrown over by Hugh, Lord Ledsey, the only man who had ever seriously courted her, she thinks she is out of options. But to her surprise, her mother the Countess of Westix has another idea. She makes it clear that their funds will not allow for another season, she explains the financial mess her father left and that that her brother Evander left to seek fortune not adventure as many believe, but Evander has been gone for years with no word and there is a real possibility that he is dead and they will be dependent on his heir. That is unacceptable and the countess has come up with a plan. Eleanor will take lessons from a courtesan, lesson that will teach her how to “thaw” and attract a husband. She encourages Eleanor to take advantage of this opportunity, starting tonight!
Charles Pemberton, the new Duke of Somersville is finally back in London, but it is with a heavy heart he returns. While he was traveling and exploring, his father passed away and Charles was not able to return in time to say good bye, instead he returned to find his father’s final words to him in a letter, they were not words of love, or praise or even of regret of time lost, no, the final words are a reminder of a promise. Charles father was a member of the Adventure Club and found many treasures and artifacts, but one item always eluded him – the Coeur de Feu – a ruby with what appears to be a flame at its core – thus the name Heart of Fire. When Charles set out on his own adventures his father made him promise to find the ruby for him. But travel beckoned and his promise while not forgotten, didn’t seem urgent. But now Charles is faced with his failure and vows anew to find the Coeur de Feu. His father says the clues need to find it are encoded into the Adventure Club’s journals and he leaves Charles the “key” to decode. But after using the flat metal sheet with cutouts on every journal, he realizes his quest will not be as simple as he believed. Feeling down, his spirits are lifted when he receives a note from his dear childhood friend Charlotte “Lottie” Rossington, grew up together, her father was the vicar at the church near his country estate and he and Lottie became fast friends and grew as close as siblings. He has not seen her in years, so when she has demands he come to her home, he is happy to oblige.
But Lottie is not the sweet, innocent vicar’s daughter and little sister he remembers, not even close. He is dismayed to learn in his absence, she was ruined and left without options when her father died. She explains that she tried to earn an honest living, but soon accepted the “protection” of a gentleman and began her life as a courtesan. But she is excited that she may have found a way to leave that life behind, she has been offered a good sum to teach a young lady how to unbend a little, learn to flirt and be welcoming. She needs Charles help with the lessons. She also explains who the young lady is – Lady Eleanor Murray – daughter of the Earl of Westix – his father’s former friend and partner in the Adventure Club. His first instinct is to say no, but he realizes Eleanor might have access to journals that he needs AND he will be helping Lottie. He agrees, but he is not prepared for the impact Eleanor will have on him. And so it begins…
This was an absolutely amazing story that will keep you turning pages and wishing you could read faster, yet not wanting the story to end. Eleanor and Charles are wonderful leads, each feel they have something to prove and each feels like they have failed. While Charles initial motives are decidedly one sided, he soon sees the treasure Eleanor is and is thankful that she has been overlooked and will do whatever is needed to win her heart. With help from Lottie and Charles, Eleanor begins to come into her own, she begins to embrace the passion burning in her heart and begins to like the person she is. I loved watching these two dance around each other at first and then begin to fall in love and develop a relationship that has a deep bond in friendship as well as a healthy dose of lust. This book has something for everyone, steamy love scenes, secrets, lies, betrayal, surprising twists, even more surprising revelations, a laugh out loud wedding scene, treasure and a very satisfying epilogue. I highly recommend this story and can’t wait for the next installment!
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me.*