Lady Amanda Clifford runs the Clifford Charity School For Wayward Girls. Each of the girls who have been featured in the series was found in truly dire circumstances and has been taught to be strong, resourceful young ladies. They have also been taught to have a strong sense of vengeance and respect for justice. Five years ago, fifteen-year-old Emma Downing was the fourth girl rescued by Lady Amanda and possibly the most damaged by her circumstances. Now, it is Emma’s turn to take on an assignment for the school and it will take all of her skills and talents to succeed.
It seems maids have been disappearing off the country estate of Samuel Fitzroy, the Marquess of Lymington and no trace of any of them have been found – until one turns up as a courtesan at Madam Marchand’s brothel. That maid, Caroline Frances, shares a tale of a Lord who seduced and debauched her, then left her on the steps of Madam Marchands. She even names the Lord who did the deed. It is now up to Emma to investigate Lancelot Banning, Viscount Lovell, and come up with the evidence to either exonerate him or convict him. To do that, Emma will live with Lady Amanda’s friend Lady Crosby and pretend to be her granddaughter, Emma Crosby, who just happens to be on the continent with her father.
Lord Lovell is the cousin of Lord Lymington and the two of them grew up together – in the same house. They are more like brothers than cousins and Samuel is very protective of Lovell. When a young debutante (Emma) starts flirting with Lovell, Samuel warns her away because he knows Lovell is head-over-heels in love with Lady Flora.
Samuel nor Lovell have any idea that Emma suspects Lovell of some very dire deeds, but Samuel certainly comes to question her and her motives when he keeps encountering her at places no well-bred young lady should be. She intrigues him – and she repels him. Yet, when Emma’s life is in danger, Samuel knows he has to save her.
I believe this was the final book in the series and it had a lovely epilogue that included visits with Sophia (The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Grey), Cecilia (The Virgin Who Vindicated Lord Darlington), and Georgiana (The Virgin Who Humbled Lord Haslemere). I’m always a sucker for a good epilogue.
I enjoyed this story but was left with a number of questions and no answers. First, since Emma is impersonating a real-life person, how will the person, the grandmother, and Emma explain all of that to the ton when the actual granddaughter appears? Emma and Samuel – and the entire family – will be shunned by the ton when they discover Emma’s time in Madam Marchand’s service – how would they explain that away? It just seems it was made much too easy and there was a rather blasé attitude to a very serious social issue.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.