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I can't believe I doubted Christi Caldwell's ability to make the cold, unfeeling Ryker Black into a romantic hero. For I truly did - I looked back at my review of the previous book, and this is what I said: "I am a bit wary of reading a book with Helena's brother as the hero. I guess we will see when the time comes how much redemption can be done." I am sorry, Christi, and I am also brilliantly happy that I was wrong!
Ryker Black is hardened from a life of blood, crime, and no love. Surrounding himself with his brothers but refusing to let anyone beyond the walls of his heart, he lives day by day for his security and that of his gaming hell. But he didn't plan on Lady Penelope Tidesmore, and when she comes blazing into his life after a mishap at a ball, those walls which have kept him controlled for so long gradually begin to crumble. Penelope had her heart set on respectability, but one mistake at a ball leaves her with no choice but to marry a scoundrel like Ryker. It doesn't take her long to see the possibilities, though, and she sees Ryker and his makeshift family as a challenge she is determined to meet.
It is fitting that this book is released on Valentine's Day, because it truly is a masterpiece of romantic literature. There is such depth in both characters that one minute you think you know all there is to know about them, and the next you are blown away by that extra layer you never knew was there. Given that Ryker had been introduced as an unfeeling jerk in the previous book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he really is just very guarded. Never knowing love, he can't even recognize it anymore, and emotions are only a display of weakness. That is why it was so beautiful to see the way Penelope allowed his true character to blossom, and I fell in love with him right alongside Penelope. She was a gem herself, never allowing the cruelty of others to make her become cruel herself. Ultimately, in the end, her kindness and selflessness showed in an amazing way. If only we all could be a little more like Penelope.
The ending is fantastic, so if you're on the fence about finishing the book, you need to rethink that. It was magical, truly one of the most romantic scenes I have read in a long time. Christi Caldwell has proven to be incapable of producing a bad book. I have yet to read one book of hers I did not like. All I can say is, if you haven't read her books yet, you are missing out.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**