I almost put this one down since I found it a bit disappointing a first. The couple doesn't immediately know each other and it's not until some chapters in the book that they are finally thrown together.
Belinda Hamilton has a stalker. Dolph Breckinridge is the nephew of the Earl of Coldfell and he is obsessed with Belinda. It has gotten to the point where he has ruined her family and has made her destitute, with the intention that she finally turn to him in her time of need. He obviously doesn't know Belinda. She had promised herself to a local boy who went off to fight the war but her hope for his return is dying because she is on her last dime. She has taken to selling oranges but even this is not enough to bribe the warden of her father's prison.
When the unthinkable happens, Belinda decides she will have to rely on the oldest profession in the book and cuts a business deal with the madame of a high hootin' brothel, she is taught the Art of Seduction and Pleasure in return for a percentage of her keep when she gets a protector. In this way, Belinda Hamilton becomes the most sought after courtesan in London.
Robert, The Duke of Hawkcliffe has just buried the woman he most loved, the wife of the Earl of Coldfell. Although the love was platonic, the fact that Lucy's death is a bit suspicious as Robert committing himself to find the truth. He already suspects Dolph and when he hears about the man's obsession with Ms. Hamilton, he seeks her out himself. What he didn't expect was his attraction to this fallen woman. Robert is known by all for his high standards of morals, but he is willing to put aside his prejudices for woman of Belinda's class and offer for her in name only. He is determined to get a confession out of Dolph and is not below using Belinda in any way possible.
Robert has a lot to overcome but his steadfastness and his honor, make him shine. You can easily see how Belinda falls in love with him. Robert's struggles with his sense of duty and his love for Belinda is so vivid that you can forgive almost anything! He has been emotionally scared by his parents lives, yet when he discovers the truth behind Belinda's past he learns to cope with his own baggage and becomes her strength.
I must take my hat off to Foley for bringing these characters to life. The only down side was the beginning, and yet by the end it's difficult to fault. Great story telling