Caught in a rainstorm, Miss Calliope Worthington takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned mansion. But when she finds a string of pearls in a dusty chest, she is caught red-handed by the house's reclusive owner--Mr. Ren Porter--a fiery demon of a man who demands that Callie pay for the necklace...with her innocence.
When he first lays eyes on the beautiful trespasser, Ren mistakes her for an angel. But when he realizes Callie is a thief, he strikes a bargain she cannot refuse. She must take his hand in marriage and pay him back in full: one night of passion for each stolen pearl. But when Callie surrenders to his desires--night after wicked night--he awakens something deep inside of her. Something powerful and passionate. Like a fairy tale come true, the monster she married has become the man she loves...when she said I do.
Loved this book. It is the story of Ren Porter, a secondary character in the Liar's Club series, and Callie Worthington. I was glad to see Ren get his story after the trauma he'd gone through in the earlier books. His injuries were so bad that he has taken to hiding out in his home, drinking and waiting to die. His home is invaded one night when Callie and her family take refuge there after a carriage accident. Thinking the place is abandoned, Callie goes exploring and finds a jewelry box that she raids, putting several necklaces on while indulging in some light fantasy. She's startled when the owner suddenly appears and accuses her of theft, then indulges in some passionate teasing. After being discovered by her brother, Callie agrees to marriage to prevent a duel.
Ren has hidden himself away for a long time, in constant pain from his injuries and bitter about what caused them. He is just waiting for the death that one of his doctors predicted for him. Callie's appearance in his life has an immediate effect on him. The intense attraction is something he hasn't felt since before his injuries. But he also finds himself fascinated by her. He starts out as something of a jerk, claiming a night of passion for each pearl on one of the necklaces, planning to scare her into running away. He doesn't expect her to actually participate willingly. Then she ignores his orders to leave him alone in the daytime and proceeds to turn his house and life upside down. In spite of his previous life as a spy, there are times when little old Callie sends him running. It only takes a few days for Ren to find that instead of sending her away, he'd rather keep Callie close to him. But he fears what would happen if she were to see all his scars, so he keeps them hidden. The betrayals he's suffered make it hard for him to trust her, but eventually he opens himself up to her. I loved seeing him start to come out of his shell and was worried about him after the disaster at the ball. He has had his moments of stupidity such as when he sends her away to protect her, but eventually his love for Callie wins out.
Callie has been the glue that is holding her family together. At thirty years old she has never had the chance to have a season, leaving her without hope of a family of her own. When they are stranded at Ren's house, she takes a few moments to herself to explore the seemingly empty mansion. I loved seeing her have fun with trying on all those jewels. It was a little odd that she didn't object at all to Ren's advances, but it was obvious that the chemistry between them was strong. Her love for her family was apparent in the way that she used marrying Ren to keep her brother from killing him. Callie's upbringing has been very unusual and that has made her interested in many things. She is intrigued by her reaction to Ren which makes her willing to follow his directions. I loved the way that this rather confuses him, as he expected her to flee in terror. I enjoyed the way that Callie embraces her new life, thrilled with the fact that she really has only herself and Ren to care for. She also uses her experiences with her family to get Ren to do the things she wants him to do. Some of the situations she gets into are quite funny. I loved the scene with the sword fight, which had me laughing out loud. I also enjoyed her attempts to bring Ren and the townspeople together, even as those attempts sometimes got her into more trouble. The first part of the ball was wonderful and I felt so bad for her as it fell apart at the end. Her love for Ren was so vital to her, and I felt for her as she tried to repair their relationship.
The mystery of who was trying to hurt Callie was good, but not overly intense. It was fairly obvious who it was who was so resentful of her presence, but there was some doubt about who was behind the actual attacks. It bothered me some that there didn't seem to be any repercussions on those who were responsible.
There was a brief appearance by some of the members of the Liar's Club, causing me to hope that there would be some kind of reconciliation. But they were there, then gone, with no more information on what may have eventually happened.
Then we have Callie's family. I know they are supposed to appear eccentric, but I felt like they went way beyond that. I thought her parents were just plain negligent and their treatment of her was horrible. There was no reason she should have been stuck taking care of everyone, including them. Her brother Dade was rather obnoxious, and the twins were out of control with their pranks. I didn't really have much impression of Ellie. The youngest sister is one that I thought was especially out of control. At twelve years old to get the idea to poison your brother in law because you don't approve of him marrying your sister is criminal, but to actually attempt to shoot him is even worse. And to have no apparent punishment is wrong on so many levels. It will be interesting to see how the stories for the rest of the family go. I really hope they redeem themselves.