Ms. Merrill writes a maudlin dark story that was not an easy read for me. I have an innate bias against using deception as a plot device. It takes an excellent author who can write a believable story using deception because most authors do not give a plausible enough reason for its use. Such is the case in this book.
Daphne’s cousin Clare has died mysteriously by falling down a flight of stairs. Daphne had always looked up to her cousin and allowed herself to stain her reputation taking the advice of Clare, who is proven to have been very promiscuous and selfish. She marries a lowly baron who she thought would inherit a Marquis title from a elderly, sick uncle but the uncle recovers, marries and now has a legitimate heir. Clare proceeds to humiliate her husband, including having an affair with his best friend. Clare’s husband, Tim Colton, feels somewhat guilty because he married Clare for her money to restore his home and to finance his horticultural experiments.
After Daphne falls for Tim, she feels that he didn’t murder his wife and she plans to find the real culprit. The fact that she went from blaming Tim for murdering his wife at the beginning of the story and then changes her mind–it seems like overnight–was disconcerting at best. His actions throughout the beginning of this book could not have endeared himself to Daphne because he was not very gentlemanly to her in the least. Daphne’s actions were not that of a governess and he suspected her of not being who she claims to be almost immediately after meeting her. You would have thought that if he really loved his children, he would have verified her “references” post-haste and demanded that she tell him who she really is and why she was in his home. Even after making love with him, Daphne still didn’t tell him the truth about herself.
This story had too many unbelievable moments including forgiving his best friend who betrayed him with his wife so easily that I thought I imagined what happened. The characterizations of the hero and heroine were also badly written. Based on the number of problems with this storyline, I cannot recommend this book.