Despite his notorious reputation, Quinn Wilde, Earl of Traherne, has mostly honorable intentions. So when beautiful Venetia Stratham boldly enters a gentlemen’s club, demanding that Quinn stop courting her sister, he does what any bachelor would do: He kisses her. With her sharp wit, intoxicating passion, and surprising vulnerability, Venetia is irresistible -- except for all this nonsense about threatening to shoot Quinn. But when clandestine enemies make an actual attempt on the earl’s life, Venetia is implicated. To save her good name, Quinn does what any true gentleman must do: He proposes.
Thus Venetia finds herself wed to arrogant, wickedly sensual Quinn, whose devilish ways are as legendary as his rumored skills as a lover. Yet vexingly, her body rebels against her vow to remain immune to his many charms. If only she could reform the infuriating nobleman -- without diminishing his undeniable allure. As Venetia discovers that a true rake is hard to tame, Quinn faces an even greater challenge: winning his wife’s fragile trust . . . while defending both their lives.
Good story of two people, burned by love, who find themselves joined in a marriage of convenience. Two years earlier Venetia broke off her engagement on the steps of the church when her fiancé showed up for their wedding drunk, disheveled, and straight from his mistress's bed. Thanks to the resulting scandal, her parents banished her to France and refused to have anything to do with her. She has returned to England after hearing that Quinn Wilde, Earl of Traherne and notorious rake, is courting her younger sister. She is determined to prevent Ophelia from suffering the same heartbreak that she did. To that end, she disguises herself and confronts Quinn in the gentlemen's club where he is playing cards. But it does not go quite as she expected.
Quinn has earned his reputation as a rake. Years ago he fell in love with a woman who only wanted him for his title and his wealth. Since that time, he has avoided allowing his emotions to get involved, limiting his liaisons to women who know what to expect. In this instance, he has the best of intentions. He has long felt guilty for his part in Venetia's disgrace and has decided that appearing to court Ophelia will raise her up in Society's eyes. He is surprised by Venetia's appearance and somewhat amused by her demands.
I enjoyed this initial confrontation. Venetia is bold and determined to do what she must to protect her sister. Unfortunately, she gets into a bit of trouble when she is accosted by a drunken gambler. Quinn, who recognized her almost immediately, comes to her rescue by claiming her as his own with a searing kiss. A short discussion and agreement to meet the next day has them leaving by a discreet back entrance. Things go a bit sideways when Quinn is attacked by three thugs, but he fights them off and gets Venetia to safety. A second attack the next day delays his meeting with Venetia, and impatient; she shows up at his home, angry at being stood up. During another contentious discussion, Venetia pulls a pistol on Quinn at the same time someone takes a shot at him. Initially implicated in the attack, to protect Venetia's name, Quinn proposes marriage.
Venetia is not easy to convince. She had resigned herself to the life of a spinster thanks to the scandal of her non-wedding. Plus, the thought of marrying a man cut from the same cloth as her ex-fiancé does not make her happy. However, to keep her sister from suffering from the effects of another scandal involving Venetia, she agrees to a marriage in name only. Quinn had never seen himself entering into marriage but finds himself very protective of Venetia. Besides wanting to save her from more scandal, he is also afraid that whoever is trying to kill him would also hurt her.
I loved the development of their relationship. Venetia is determined not to trust Quinn. Because of her attraction to him, she can see herself being hurt when his inevitable infidelity occurs. Quinn is attracted and fascinated by Venetia but refuses to allow himself to fall in love. As they leave London for a time to allow Quinn's injury to heal and his friend to investigate the attacks, Venetia and Quinn are given the opportunity to get to know each other. As they do, Venetia discovers that Quinn is not the unrepentant rake that she thought he was. Instead, she finds an intelligent, charming and amazingly kind man that slowly overcomes her trust issues. For his part, Quinn finds Venetia to be honest, vibrant, and fun to talk to. Underneath it all is a simmering attraction that draws them even closer together. Though both resist the idea that they are falling in love, they don't deny the ever-growing passion. When they finally give in to it, the result is a far deeper connection than either expected. I loved seeing the mutual protectiveness, as Quinn worried about the assassin going after Venetia, and Venetia concerned that Quinn is putting his life at risk in attempting to draw the attacker out. It's rather fun to see them try to deny the feelings that are driving them while at the same time trying to figure out how to make the other one want to continue their marriage. It isn't until Venetia is in danger that Quinn can admit his feelings to himself. I loved his big moment at the end when he exposes his vulnerability to Venetia. It was a sweet and romantic beginning to the rest of their life together.
The mystery of the attacks on Quinn was very well done. The intensity of the attacks built with each incident, along with the puzzle of who is behind them. Quinn wonders if the attacks have something to do with the jewels that were supposedly lost during his parents' shipwreck deaths, but one of which is being worn by a former mistress of his. Or perhaps it is related to his work in building a steam-powered ship. Personally, I suspected the scorned mistress. The final confrontation was fast-paced and intense. One of my favorite things about it was that Venetia wasn't the helpless damsel in distress, but took an active and quite clever role in it. I did ache for Quinn when the motives behind it all were revealed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the various family dynamics. Quinn's relationships with his family members are close and loving, but also realistic. I loved his dual motivation in "courting" Ophelia - help her, and also get his cousin and sister off his back regarding getting married. I loved that they were there for Quinn when he needed them, both in making Venetia welcome and later in catching the bad guy. Venetia's relationship with her parents was starkly opposite. Their rejection of her because she refused to marry her cheating fiancé was so wrong. Even after she married Quinn, it took some not-so-veiled threats from him to get them to loosen up even a little bit. I did like her sister Ophelia, who was sweet and loving.