When Alexander Moncrieffe, the infamous Duke of Falconbridge (it's rumoured that he poisoned his first wife), finds Ian Eversea in bed with his fiancee, he wows revenge, and plans to seduce, then abandon Ian's innocent younger sister Genevieve, breaking her heart. However, Genevieve has already had her heart broken, by her best friend Harry Osborne, who confides in her that he intends to propose to her cousin (also their good friend) at some point during her father's upcoming house party. Quiet and reserved Genevieve has loved Harry for the past three years and feels like her world is falling apart, but the only one who appears to notice that anything at all is amiss with her, is the Duke.
Although she is young, Alex discovers very quickly that Genevieve is no silly child, and that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. She is clearly fiercely intelligent and has quite a temper, but keeps it well controlled and appears meek and kind and well meaning to everyone around her. Like him, she is a keen observer of those around her, and quickly notices that her brother Ian goes pale and jittery every time he's in the same room as the Duke. She deduces that the two have a history, and Alex' plans to seduce her are made a lot more difficult when she figures out how he intended to use her for revenge. Instead, when he ferrets out the truth of her heartbreak, he proposes to help her make Lord Osborne jealous, as against all his expectations, he enjoys spending time with her, and Ian gets nervous every time he sees them together.
While Alex and Genevieve have an age difference of nearly twenty years, they were great as a couple, and obviously challenged and complimented each other. Alex is a great hero, as he is an experienced and intelligent man, and he clearly enjoys the wicked reputation and the fear he instills in people. Yet he is also obviously lonely, and longs for someone he can spend his life with. Genevieve is innocent in some ways, and quite worldly in others. She has a very strong sense of duty, and suppresses her own wishes and emotions for the good of her family and friends. Yet when being good and kind leads only to heartbreak, she is forced to reevaluate her life, and what she wants for her future. Lord Osborne is very handsome and nice, but he's not really very interesting, whilst the Duke has experience, intelligence and complexity. Every scene between the couple is enjoyable, and the tension towards the end had me actually shouting out loud at the book. I wanted to reach in and shake both characters vigorously, and the end was all the more satisfying because of it. I will absolutely be adding Julie Anne Long to my ever increasing TBR list.