I wasn't all that hot for reading this book but the moment I started reading it I was enthrall. This is a story of love, lost, reunions and goodbyes and finding redemption.
Two couples are followed in this book, Aline and Mckenna. Her youngest sister Livia and Gideon Shaw.
Mckenna is a stable boy, a lowly servant, and Aline is the daughter of a wealthy Peer. They have been in love for years but the horribly ingrained social stratum forbids them to marry. Regardless, they are both so in love that they begin a tentative love affair that doesn't last long as Aline's father finds them out. Her father is furious but Aline tells him that if he harms Mckenna she will pick the lowliest of scoundrels to have a public affair with and ruin the family name beyond repair. Her father knowing her capable of that, and much more, accepts her demands to have Mckenna remove to another employment. In a last effort to protect him, Aline also lies and tells him that he was nothing more than a passing fancy and he is now an embarrassment to her.
Mckenna believes her, having had the fact of being a lowly servant drummed into his head since childhood, and he leaves Stony Cross. Twelve years go by and Mckenna comes back from America to London, having now amassed a large fortune, he wants revenge on Aline. He wants to exorcise her ghost from his life once it for all and bring about embarrassment to the family that humiliated him so much. With him come his business partner, Gideon Shaw, rich beyond belief but also a pitiful man who has been unhappy all his life and has turned into an alcoholic.
When Aline and Mckenna meet again it becomes clear that their love has stood the test of time. Mckenna becomes hell bent on seducing her but he finds little resistance from Aline who has yearned for him for years and does not care if he wants revenge. The love and yearning they feel for one another is palpable as you read their interactions. It is so clear the misery they have endured while separated and the bittersweet joy at seeing each other again.
Meanwhile, Livia meets Gideon Shaw and they begin a passionate affair. Livia having been tainted by scandal two years before finds little enjoyment in life, she was supposed to marry some rich peer who loved her but he died on a hunting accident and later it was discovered that she was pregnant when she had a miscarriage. She has since stayed secreted away at Stony Cross.
Gideon, a terribly unhappy man who has everything but affection meets her one evening dancing to the sway of the music from the ballroom. They quickly begin a passionate love affair but by the end they end up so in love and tangle with one another that Gideon wants to marry her. Livia refuses, she tells him his love for the bottle would come between them and that it is better to end it now while everything is still sweet.
The ending for these couples is satisfying and so very moving that I must admit I shed a tear. Kleypas once again outdoes herself at relationships and human emotions.