Mary Balogh has no equal when it comes to capturing the complex, irresistible passions between men and women. Her classic novel, The Secret Pearl, is one of the New York Times bestselling author’s finest–a tale of temptation and seduction, of guarded hearts and raw emotion…and of a love so powerful it will take your breath away….
He first spies her in the shadows outside a London theatre, a ravishing creature forced to barter her body to survive.
To the woman known simply as Fleur, the well-dressed gentleman with the mesmerizing eyes is an unlikely savior. And when she takes
the stranger to her bed, she never expects to see him again. But then Fleur accepts a position as governess to a young girl…and is stunned to discover that her midnight lover is a powerful nobleman. As two wary hearts ignite–and the threat of scandal hovers over them – one question remains: will she be mistress or wife?
Fleur is a desperate young woman. She thinks that she has killed a man and has fled from her home, expecting at any moment to be arrested for murder to have her fate sealed at the hand of the hangman. When she hasn't eating for two days she feels she has only two options. The first is to give up and die, the second to fight for life, anyway she can. So she goes to Covent Garden to hopefully make some cash to be able to survive for the next few days at least.
Adam is married to his Duchess Sybil in name only and has a very precocious child, Pamela, who is one of those terribly not cute children that populate romance novels. When his brother returns his marriage once more turns a corner towards more unhappiness.
After Fleur has been at the Duke's residence at Willoughby, she finally finds out that the man who has employed her was the same man who now taunts her in her nightmares, but she is still safe, that is until a few weeks later, when her accuser tracks her down and then attempts to blackmail her. When Adam finds out he sets out to find out the truth of the matter, unveiling many secrets along the way.
I have a real problem with the hero of this book. I can see why some readers would like him - he is damaged both emotionally from his unhappy marriage to his ill wife, and physically from wounds he received at the Battle of Waterloo. I guess my main problem is with his treatment of Fleur. When he first sees Fleur she is trying to offer herself as a prostitute for the first time. Adam engages her, and then roughly welcomes her to the world of sex. Granted that he has no way of knowing that she is a virgin, and he has no reason to think that she is anything other than a seasoned prostitute. He does then seek her out and employ her as his daughter's governess, which in some eyes I guess would redeem him, but I guess what really annoyed me was that later in the book he says that he recognised her as the love of his life the second that he saw her standing in the shadows of Covent Gardens. If that is the case, why did he treat her so badly. Yes, he redeemed himself to an extent by giving her a respectable job, and by tracking down the truth but for me it just wasn't enough.
That doesn't mean that there weren't some lovely moments as Fleur begins to learn to trust him. There is a scene in a carriage where they just link little fingers that I thought was lovely, but those scenes are not enough to redeem Adam in my eyes. Luckily fate provided the means to a happily ever after!