Liliana lives a very quiet and studious life as a chemist and healer. Her ambition is to join the Royal Society and have her work recognized, but a break-in and attack in her house forces Liliana to reexamine her father's death 10 years ago and she realizes that this was not random or coincidence.
Liliana's investigation leads her to Geoffrey Wentworth, the current Earl of Stratford whom she believes is somehow involved in her father's murder. She finds a way to get invited to a house party at the Earl's estate, hoping to discover more information.
When Liliana meets Geoffrey Wentworth for the first time, she doesn't know what to think. She feels an instant attraction to him, but she needs to remind herself that this man might be her enemy.
Geoffrey is wary of Liliana and all the other ladies attending the house party. His mother planned the whole event, hoping he would select a bride from one of the ladies present. He is guarded and indifferent and is quick to dodge any scheme thrown his way.
But he is unprepared for Liliana. Who, frank and honest as she is, tells him upfront that she is not interested in him or in marriage.
It's her disinterest that initially interests him.
As he spends more time with Liliana, Geoffrey has grown to appreciate her mind and her intelligence. He knows she is a woman who would be a true partner and helpmeet. And Liliana is also not immune to Geoffrey's sincerity. For the first time in her life, she realizes she wants more for herself than what her experiments and studies have given her.
I love the title that Heather Snow chose -- the contradictory terms show the quandary our hero and heroine find themselves in -- especially when it is discovered what Liliana's true intention was when she came to the house party. When the mystery is unraveled, Geoffrey and Liliana have to determine whether their love is stronger than the betrayal and distrust that surrounds them. But the theme of betrayal and love go far beyond the two lovers -- as Liliana pursues her investigation, she discovers things which changes her (and Geoffrey's) past, present and future.
There's a lot of wonderful elements in Heather Snow's debut. I especially love the code-cracking scene near the end of the book (and I wish there was more of it to read!) -- the secondary characters were amazing and I am very excited to read Aveline's story (which is coming this August! Sweet Deception).
The interaction between Geoffrey and Liliana really show the gradual development of their relationship: from wary, to combative, to spark, to full flame. Much like a chemical reaction, hero and heroine undergo a change when love as a catalyst is introduced.
This was a solid debut novel and I really enjoyed reading it. I look forward to more from Heather Snow.