Lady Phaedra Northampton is in a shop trying to find information about her maid's missing sister when a Russian staggers through the door and falls at her feet with a knife buried in his back. Her family do not want the event publicised, and since Phaedra's older stepbrother is a powerful man, they keep the news out of the papers.
Tristan Talbot, Viscount Avoncliffe, is a rakish and handsome layabout, pretty much only concerned with pleasuring as many married women as possible. He has always had a strained relationship with his father and his extended family, as his mother was of Spanish peasant stock and his father's relatives never approved of her, and frequently questioned whether he was the Earl's true heir. When his father, who seems to be indispensable to the governing of the country, needs his help in getting to the bottom of the death of the mysterious Russian, and what may be a large spy plot against the British government, he is very reluctant to help - but can't refuse, as his father is on his death bed.
Sparks fly as soon as Tristan and Phaedra are in the same room. Phaedra's friend Zoë is acquainted with Tristan, and delighted that the frivolous rake seems truly interested in a woman of substance for a change. There are secrets in Phaedra's past, however, and reasons why she so desperately wants and needs to find her maid's missing sister. She is greatly attracted to Tristan, but feels that they can have no long term future, and she is determined to live a quiet, secluded life and never marry, no matter how good she feels when she's with him.
This is the third novel by Liz Carlyle that I have read, and I was delighted to discover that Phaedra was the younger sister of the hero of Never Lie to a Lady, my favourite of Carlyle's novels so far. While characters that have appeared in previous of Carlyle's novels do appear, the book can be read without any previous knowledge of the author's books. The book had a more serious tone than the other Carlyle novels I've read so far, although neither of her books are as fluffy and light hearted as some of the Julia Quinn romances I so greatly enjoy. Phaedra has a dark past and issues that are unusual for a Regency romance heroine, but Tristan is such a great hero for her, with complexities of his own, and the book is a great read.