Not one, but two secret identities! Ana is just trying to survive after her father's mistakes left her and her brother on their own. She's finding her way well enough as a companion to the young daughter of a marquess, but accepting her inevitable spinsterhood has left her wanting just one night of passion before her impending thirtieth birthday. Oliver is fascinated by the mysterious Lady Scarlet and wants far more than just one night, even though he knows he should be pursuing a proper marriage to a proper young miss, like the beautiful yet too-young Lady Penelope, instead. But when he meets Lady Penelope's paid companion, he knows he simply can't move on from Ana regardless of the impropriety of it all. I loved the delicate dance between Oliver and Ana as she learns that he's nothing like his late father and brother, and he learns that there's more to his alluring Lady Scarlet than he'd first thought. But there are still more secrets to be spilled, and when they are the heartbreaking results were almost too much to bear. By the end, we're happily rejoicing at not just Oliver and Ana's HEA but that of another couple as well. I wasn't entirely happy with the distribution of the estate in question (no spoilers, sorry) but all in all the romance hit every note beautifully. I really appreciated the wonderful inclusion of Ana's mixed heritage and the insights into that other culture. I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book.
Following a tragedy (caused in part by the former Earl of Drake) that destroyed her family, Lady Anahit Woodbridge, now known as Ana Gardner, works as a companion to a young girl in order to provide for herself and her brother. Oliver Bedford has always been interested in the estates and people in the Drake Earldom, but he never wanted the title. At the deaths of both his father and older brother, he became the Earl of Drake. The terrible history between their families should have made them enemies, but Fate had a different plan. Ana and Oliver are a great couple. They meet under quite unusual circumstances and the attraction is immediate and the passion sizzling. There are some interesting secondary characters in the story. I love Oliver’s friend, the Duke of Warwick. He is not your typical duke. He would rather be in his workshop than Parliament. Ana’s charge, Penelope, and her love, Timothy, cause a bit of a stir with their determination to be together. Ana’s brother Adam is delightful. This is an interesting story with great characters and a wonderful happy ending. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary.