Cyprian Sloane's reputation is of the very worst. A gambler, smuggler, rake and a spy, he now faces the greatest challenge of all - respectability. He will force society to accept him. Nothing with stand in his way!
But then he meets Morgana Hart whose caring nature thrusts her into the company of ladies of the night and risks a scandal that will destroy them both. To become a gentleman Cyprian must sacrifice the lady. Or is there a way for the rake to save them both.
As soon as I saw this cover last year, I wanted this book! Couldn't care less if the hair or the costume was wrong...or anything else for that matter, I just knew that I wanted to read it! Unfortunately, this wasn't the book cover that I had (more on that later!), so luckily I liked what was between the covers as well as what was on the cover!
Cyprian Sloan has a well developed reputation as a rakehell, gambler and smuggler. Some of those labels may be well deserved but others were labels that were earned during his time as a spy for the Crown. Now, his days of spying for the Crown are over, and now that he has a nice fortune set aside, it is time to change his ways and become a respectable man about town. That, of course, means that he must also find himself a wife, and he knows just the girl. It also means that if there is any opportunity to cause his estranged father grief, then he will take advantage of that as well.
Unfortunately, after saving a group of ladies in distress in the park, he comes to know the young lady's cousin, Miss Morgana Hart. Now Miss Hart may have been practically ignored by the men of the ton, but Cyprian recognises straight away that she is a very uncommon woman - one who is above the small talk about the weather that seems to dominate every drawing room, who is willing to take a risk, a woman of passion perhaps.
As a result of the set-to in the park, which occurred as one of her servants had decided to run away to become a prostitute, Morgana decides that in order to save her servant that she must teach her to become a courtesan, to at least provide her with some better life than a young girl could expect on the harsh streets of London. Cyprian once again becomes involved when he has to save her from another difficult situation.
To Cyprian's horror, he finds that his agent/servant has managed to procure him a lovely London home....right next door to Morgana Hart. Once he figures out what she is up to, he is extremely concerned that it will cause damage to his own reputation to be living next to her, let alone what will happen to both of them should anyone figure out what is going on. And yet, he cannot stay away and is soon visiting on a regular basis, ostensibly as a dance partner for the young ladies, but in truth to see Morgana as well.
Adventure, danger and love follow as the young ladies make their debuts (albeit masked), with varied results and Cyprian and Morgana fall in love.
I really loved Cyprian. He was just the right mix of rake and man of honour, finding himself drawn into a situation that he could well have done without, and drawn to a woman he found irresistibly attractive.
Morgana was good too. Whilst there were probably some things that she did throughout the story that may have qualified her as almost TSTL, she did them for the right reasons, and with her heart in the right place.
All of the secondary characters were well rounded and played integral roles in the story. I particularly liked Cyprian's nephew as he provided a nice counter balance against his father and brother who hated Cyprian with a passion. Even Cyprian's name was a reflection of the passion with which he hated Cyprian, who may have been his wife's son, but was certainly no seed of the Earls!
I am pretty sure that I have never read of a heroine setting up a courtesan's school before, so Diane Gaston deserves kudos for originality at the very least. I had never read anything by her before, but I have added all of her books to my list after reading this one.
I did say that I would come back to the book cover thing! It appears as though there are quite a few Harlequin Historicals that are being released in two book volumes here in a series called Quills, so the book I actually got from the library had the cover shown to the right. I will be reviewing the other book that was included, The Puritan Bride by Anne O'Brien, in due course. Other authors to be given the Quills treatment who I have wanted to read include Michelle Styles and Terri Brisbin.