Lillian Bourne was ruined once before and has retired from society. Upon the insistence of her brother (the Earl of Augustine), and the support of her new sister-in-law's grandmother, the Duchess of Eddington, she has returned to London --
She's been successful, thus far, in avoiding the dancing and the mingling -- expertly finding a nice, safe, quiet place for her to enjoy the solitude --
But at one such quiet place, she becomes witness to a rather scandalous scene involving Damien Northfield and a lady.
Damien Northfield has returned from the war a different man and is not eager to engage in such dalliances. He's tired from all the subterfuge and skullduggery working as a spy for Wellington and wants something less troublesome.
But his first encounter with Lillian involves a locked library with half of a broken key jambed in the keyhole -- and a hidden passageway as their only means out.
To say that their first meeting was unforgettable would be an understatement --
And so they begin their quiet investigation and exploration of each other -- who is this beautiful lady who hides herself during parties? And who is this clever gentleman who doesn't mince words and can pick locks?
Emma Wildes also adds to the mix a blackmail scheme involving Lillian's former fiance -- and many other young lords.
This was an interesting story -- the main story involves the courtship of Lillian and Damien. Both wary of society for their own personal reasons -- but both finding a reason to trust each other and to be open to one another.
I like Wildes' title because it reflects the situation that the characters find themselves in -- Lillian was ruined before and, being in a locked room with Damien would have caused her ruin ... a second time around. Damien wants to put the war and his life as a spy behind him -- but he has been requested to investigate the blackmail and mysterious deaths of some gentlemen.
There is also the side story of Lillian's cousin, James and Regina Daudet, the Viscount Altea's half-sister (from her previous novel, Our Wicked Mistake --
Regina's whole life is tainted in scandal, being the illegitimate daughter of an English lord and his French mistress -- and she continues to be scandalous because of her paintings. But James loves her for who and what she is -- and wants her to be in his life forever.
The addition of Regina and James' story was initially jarring -- but I understand why Wildes chose to include their story in Lillian and Damien's -- the juxtaposition shows us the many ways lovers navigate through the rules and scrutiny of the Ton in order to find love.
Overall, I felt the novel lacked emotional pull -- but it Wildes wrote it well enough to keep this reader engaged.
This book is part of Wildes' Ladies in Waiting series -- I assume there will be 2 more books after this one? ^_^