This book is the beginning of a new series for MacLean, although it is slightly connected to the original trilogy because the heroine of this book was engaged to the Duke of Leighton who was the hero in one of the previous books. It is only a slight connection, but it is something that I like to be aware of when I read connected books.
Whilst the Marquess of Bourne should be a member of the higher echelons of the ton, he isn't. Ten years ago he lost everything that was precious to him in a game of cards. The only things that he had left were a coin in his pocket, the title and the entailed land that came with it. Ever since, he has plotted revenge on the man who wrecked his life and took his ancestral home, Falconwell.
That man, who happens to be the father of his childhood friend Tommy, has now passed Falconwell on to another childhood friend's father, who in turn has added it to the dowry for his daughter, Lady Penelope Marbury, a young lady who was formerly engaged but has since been left on the shelf. Whilst Penelope is holding out for adventure and love, her parents are determined that she should be married sooner rather than later.
The first clue that Penelope has of what is going to happen is when her friend Tommy proposes to her. When she asks him why now his answer is rather enigmatically to protect her. Penelope has no clue what this means
Bourne is a man who has been running a gambling hell for the last ten years. His desire for revenge and his chosen line of work has served to make him somewhat hard emotionally, to the point that no one other than his partners know him at all, and even they don't often refer to him by name. They do however take the opportunity to point out exactly what he is doing wrong in his relationship and tease him mercilessly!
A chance encounter at night leads to a rapid engagement and marriage between Bourne and Penelope, but not before she manages to wrest a promise from him - in order to provide her younger sisters with suitable husbands (which means being introduced into society properly), Bourne must again return to society.
Bourne wants to protect her from his wickedness so he tries to stay away from Penelope, but struggles to do so, and Penelope tries to find Michael, the boy who used to be one of her best friends hidden inside the shell of the man that is left behind.
One of the best thing in this book is the series of letters that are in the book. In them Penelope writes to her friend Michael firstly while they are young, then when he goes to university. Initially, she gets responses, but after his scandal breaks the responses diminish until it is a one sided conversation.
When Bourne gets the chance to get his revenge once and for all, there will be collateral damage. The question is how far is he willing to go to get his revenge and what will the cost be for him.
I really enjoyed the set up for this series, and I can't wait to read the next book.
A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.
A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.
Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart