Bow Street runner Nick Gentry is a complex man with a dark and tortured history, and beautiful Charlotte Howard is a woman running from her past. Neither Nick or Charlotte are wholly what they seem, for each have secrets too painful to reveal, and each has chosen to hide behind a false identity. Once they’re drawn into each other’s worlds, they’re forced to face difficult truths and are compelled to acknowledge the passion that burns between them. For Charlotte, "the challenge of taming him, matching his powerful will with her own, was too tempting to resist." For Nick, "if he could not have her, this endless feeling of being hungry, unsatisfied, cold, would never leave him." But will their love be enough to defeat the obsessed nobleman who covets Charlotte and the thirst for danger that tempts Nick, or is their future together doomed by the pain of their past?
So, I can't remember how long ago it was that I first read this book. What I can remember is that Nick had me at hello. He is such a perfect tortured hero - and Lottie is his absolute perfect mate.
When we first meet Nick, he is the virgin hero; unable to be touched and unable to connect sexually with anyone. He learns in the bed of Gemma Bradshaw, Kleypas' standby madam. I fell hard for him during his first encounter with Gemma - his feelings and emotions were so intense.
When we next meet him, he is on the hunt for Lottie, and from the moment they meet you know they are meant for one another. Nick falls like a ton of bricks, and to watch him deal with the emotions of that while still trying to deal with the physical aspect of not liking to be touched is so heart-wrenching. You can see their love for each other grow daily. And as Nick comes to realize that he doesn't need his old life - all he needs is Lottie - and his "last thoughts" are of her, well, it's just romance at its finest.
Lottie, in turn, is a fantastic heroine. She is strong in her own right and strong for Nick as well. She helps him through the toughest revelations in his life and supports him through thick and thin while enduring some horrific stuff on her own as well.
I love how both characters grew during the course of the book - a key component. They weren't stagnant. They learned from each other and their love made them strong as a couple, but also strong as individuals. Lottie went from strong in the relationship to a strong individual, and Nick went from a (seemingly) strong individual to strong in the relationship.
Did I like this book as much as the first time I read it? Oh yes. Is this one of the few books on my keeper shelf? Oh yes. If you are one of the few out there who haven't read this one yet, go get it and read it asap. And in the Derek/Nick battle? No battle in my mind. Nick wins hands down. (ducking Kristie's tomatoes)