Chloe Somerton knew what poor was. Being poor as a young child had led her into illegal activities. Now the past was behind her. Chloe's sisters had married well and this was her time. Chloe had set her sights on the pleasing, wealthy, young earl, Lord Henry Sefton. (As Chloe was young as well this hardly seemed difficult to me. On the other hand Chloe's 'hand to mouth' existence as a child has made her older in experience of the not so charming side of life.)
Chloe had not reckoned with Henry's mentor--Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron. Michael is an emotionally battle scarred veteran of Waterloo. His scars, worn on the inside, are not obvious but just as deadly and damaging. Michael has a duty to his dead friend's son and thwarting Chloe becomes a central game. 'Chloe Somerton [might be] the picture of beauty, grace, and innocence,' but Michael recognizes her from the past and is determined that his young charge shall not succumb to her wiles. What he fails to recognize is the frisson of attraction that sizzles between himself and Chloe.
Chloe throws down the gauntlet. The battle is on. As Chloe attempts to bring Lord Henry to heel, she realizes that all is not well with Michael. Knowing how terrible memories can effect one's behaviour, Chloe finds herself compulsively drawn towards helping Michael despite the knowledge that he can destroy her. As the tug of their attraction for each other grows Chloe finds herself in a different sort of peril and Michael finds himself emotionally out of his depth where Chloe is concerned. And what of his responsibilities towards Henry? Hovering over all this is Michael's fear that in his traumatic episodes he will harm someone. That fact stops him from seeking his own happiness.
Gabrielle has used the historical background, the returned veterans of the European Theatre, combined with the plight of the poor, to effect. A pleasing end to the Somerton sisters' stories bringing (to my mind) a version of Beauty and the Beast revisited.
A NetGalley ARC