The air of mystery drew me in almost immediately with this book, which in the reading slump I was in, says a lot of good things just in that statement. The secret society, the late night meetings between a man and a woman not betrothed, and then factoring in the money her family assuredly does not have but needs desperately - it all makes for a wonderful melodrama. While I felt the story had a bit of the "unbelievable" element, I think sometimes readers need that. We want to believe anything could happen, and in this story, they most certainly did happen.
Miss Sophie Kendall is unwed but won't be for long. With her family in financial ruin and the only thing saving them is her marriage to a wealthy marquess, Sophie has given up on her dream of a loving marriage. Until the night she is searching for a new space for her secret ladies' group meetings and stumbles across a man in the darkness. Henry Reese, Earl of Warshire, is plagued by nightmares and can hardly sleep at night. When he visits a property he owns in the middle of the night and finds an intriguing young woman there, it's as if his prayers have been answered. She makes him a tea and soon he falls asleep, and from there he makes a deal with her - he will allow her to use his shop to hold her meetings, rent-free, if she would stay him a few nights a week, to help him sleep. Eventually she agrees, and thus ensues a courtship that can never be. For Henry is poor, and while Sophie may be the answer to his prayers, he is not what her family needs.
This book was one I had a difficult time putting down, because I felt myself drawn deeper and deeper into the drama. There was never a shortage of it! And the romance gave me tingles, although of course, I had to remind myself that this isn't exactly how things happened back then or now. A young woman wandering around, meeting a young, handsome man, and then being invited back to his home a few nights a week just to help him sleep, only to fall in love with him. This is not a thing that happens. And then the whole situation with her sister Mary just really turned me off, as it not only was silly but didn't really make any sense. It fixed the conflict that Sophie and Henry had been facing the whole story, but I didn't get why Mary never tried to save her sister. She was really quite a terrible character, and I'm finding this continues to be common with siblings in romance books lately. Makes me glad to be an only child, not gonna lie! Sophie and Henry were a lovely couple, a romance that most people dream about, and it was a lovely escape for me.
Anna Bennett is always a joy to read, and I look forward to her next book.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**