This is a curious one. Hugo Marshall is known as the Wolf of Clermont, as the man who does all the dirty work for the rather unpleasant Duke of Clermont. When governess Serena Barton turns up to demand compensation from the duke, and is prepared to sit on the bench outside his house until he gives in, the duke turns to Hugo to make the problem go away. And that’s exactly what he’s prepared to do, by fair means or foul. When Serena refuses an offer of money, Hugo turns to less pleasant means of persuasion.
Fair enough. But the really curious part of all this is that neither of them is honest with the other. Hugo allows her to go on thinking that he’s just a lowly secretary for far too long, and Serena simply refuses to tell him exactly what it is that the duke is supposed to have done. I could never quite see the point of this. How is anyone supposed to deal with a woman who complains of some unspecified bad behaviour?
Another oddity concerns money. Serena and her sister supposedly live on £15 a year (this at a time when a housemaid probably earned £20 a year, plus her board and lodging). They would only survive on so little if they kept chickens and grew some of their own vegetables. They certainly wouldn’t be able to afford the tea they drink! And Hugo is doing all his dirty work for a lump sum of a mere five hundred pounds, which would go nowhere, even invested. I assume the author has good reason for choosing these amounts but they seemed very low to me.
However, the romance, when it gets going, is lovely and there’s a glorious sex scene that I absolutely loved. So in the end I compromised, and gave it four stars, but it’s an oddity and no mistake.