Serena has always had the soul of an artist. But after an unfortunate encounter with a lecherous art teacher, she abandons her gift and tries to retreat from society. Accompanying her sister and brother-in-law to a friend’s country estate, she is thrown into the company of the Viscount Carmichael. Deterred by his excess of charm, Serena counters his attentions with icy set-downs until she realizes there might be more to him than his dandyish exterior.
Harry, Lord Carmichael, has been playing the dissolute heir for most of his life. but when his friend, Lord Winthrop, orders him to refrain from paying his attentions to his wife’s sister Serena, Harry struggles manfully against his growing attraction. Underneath her poised beauty, Harry senses Serena has been hurt. He encourages her to rediscover her love for painting, but when she chooses to make a portrait study of him, events conspire to make fools of them both….
I have been reading Carolyn Miller’s books in the wrong order. I first met Serena and Lord Carmichael, already married, in the third book of this series (The Making of Mrs. Hale). Something about a scandalous portrait painted by Serena was mentioned, and I knew that I needed to read the earlier book.
This book is one of the more realistic portrayals of the reformed rake trope. Neither Serena nor her guardian brother-in-law take Lord Carmichael’s flaws lightly. Harry must prove himself over a period of time to demonstrate that he has indeed changed into a God-fearing man with actions to support his faith. Serena is a very sympathetic character, her emotional scars from the past etched deeply but still able to be overcome by Harry’s tenderness. Harry himself is the epitome of charm, the good kind of charm that saves the day in social situations and acts the perfect gentleman when a damsel is in distress.
I enjoyed this book so much that I think I’ll find myself going backwards again and looking for the first book in the series. Recommended.