Having made a fortune, Thorn Dautry, the powerful bastard son of a duke, decides that he needs a wife. But to marry a lady, Thorn must acquire a gleaming, civilized façade, the specialty of Lady Xenobia India.
Exquisite, headstrong, and independent, India vows to make Thorn marriageable in just three weeks.
But neither Thorn nor India anticipate the forbidden passion that explodes between them.
Thorn will stop at nothing to make India his. Failure is not an option.
But there is only one thing that will make India his . . . the one thing Thorn can't afford to lose . . . his fierce and lawless heart.
Very good book. The differences and similarities in Thorn and India make for an explosive relationship. Thorn is the bastard son of a duke and has made quite a name for himself. His early years were spent on the streets of London, surviving by scouring the Thames for saleable items. He was twelve when his father found him and brought him to live at his home. Since then Thorn has made a fortune with his inventions and manufacturing. He is quite rough around the edges and it rarely bothers him, until he decides it's time to marry. He wants a wife who is sweet, kind, and nurturing, who will concentrate on raising his children. His own mother abandoned him when he was born because she was more interested in her career as a singer. He has settled on Laeticia Rainsford, a beautiful young woman who appears to meet all his demands. But she has an obnoxious mother who isn't impressed with him at all, so he plans to do what he can to make a good impression. He has purchased an estate that is in dire need of renovating, even more so than he is himself.
Enter Lady Xenobia India. She is twenty-six years old and has spent the last ten years with her godmother, working as an interior decorator and organizer extraordinaire to the nobility. India's father was a marquess who, with India's mother, was very eccentric. They were so involved with each other that they frequently forgot about India. They were also terrible managers of their estate, and India often found herself hungry and cold. She developed a talent for being able to make something out of nothing, and also keeping homelife as stable as possible. Her parents died in a carriage accident when she was sixteen, leaving her in the care of her godmother. India was convinced that they had left her behind on purpose and were going to travel to the Caribbean without her. Through her work she has earned enough money to provide her own dowry and enable her to pick her own husband. She wants one who will care about her, but also allow her to use her strengths in their future together.
Their initial meeting is quite contentious. He finds India pushy and opinionated, and she thinks he is crude and rude. He challenges her to complete the renovation of his estate in three weeks, and she informs him that he needs just as much work as the house. Underlying it all is a spark of attraction that neither wants to admit. I really enjoyed the banter between them, as two very strong minded people pursue what they want. The letters between them as the renovations progress were fun to read and their in person encounters were great. They also show a growing connection between them. India starts to see a bit of the vulnerable man underneath the arrogance. This makes her want to help him get what he wants, which is the beautiful Lala as his wife. She sees the woman's sweetness as just what Thorn needs to fill in what is missing in his life. Thorn sees India's actions as a way to control her life, protecting her heart from the devastation like what she experienced losing her parents. Working together they build a friendship that shows just how much they have in common.
That friendship also has undertones of attraction. Thorn discovers that India's independence and forthright speech really gets his motor running. He has a very hard time remembering his goal when he's around India. I got a bit ticked at him with the way he would give in to his desire while insisting that it can mean nothing because he's going to marry Lala. His tunnel vision kept him from seeing that she was all wrong for him. India's attraction to Thorn is not what she wants. First, she knows he's going to marry someone else. Second, she can't see him being the type who would let her run things. The more time she spends with him, the more her heart starts getting involved and she has soon fallen for him, even though she knows it is hopeless.
By the time Thorn's prospective bride and her mother arrive, he is torn. His body is focused on India, but his brain keeps telling him to stick with Lala, that she is what he needs. It doesn't matter that his friends and family keep telling him that she isn't. I felt really bad for her at the beginning of the book. She has a truly obnoxious mother that can't say anything nice about her and is horribly snobbish and self righteous. Lala's self esteem is non-existent because of it. There are parts of the story we see from her point of view and discover that she is afraid of Thorn and the idea of taking care of his huge house. She is such a timid, quiet thing that I wondered what would happen when the proposed match fell through. I loved the twist that became part of her story and what a huge difference it made in her life. Seeing her mother get what was coming to her was very satisfying.
The building relationship between Thorn and India finally reaches the point where they give in to their desires. Thorn tries to justify it to himself saying that he's not engaged yet, but the guilt is still there, which tends to make him rather cranky. India realizes that the reason she gave in was that she loves him and that she always will, even though she has no hope that they can be together. There comes a point where several storylines collide and conflicts arise. India tries to help and makes things more complicated. Thorn's friend Vander does the same, showing that he is coming to care for India and wants to help and protect her. Thorn's reaction opens his eyes to what is important, but he has succeeded in driving India away and has to figure out how to fix it. His go big moment is a bit farfetched, but it certainly works for the story.
I loved the addition of the little girl, Rose. As the daughter of one of his best friends, Thorn ends up as her guardian. The complete difference in Thorn when he was dealing with her was wonderful. He was sweet and kind and it showed what a big and loving heart he really had. Rose was quite a unique little girl. Obviously highly intelligent, he upbringing so far had been very unusual and it showed in the things she said and did. I loved seeing her in the epilogue and have great hopes that she'll have her own story one day.