An historical romance with incredibly dark overtones, this novel opens with Maria defying her abusive and quite possible mentally deranged father and accepting a position as nurse to the Duchess of Salterdon's grandson. In accepting this way out of her father's home (and hopefully the means to earning enough money to save her mother as well), she doesn't inquire too closely into her charge and his malady. And it turns out that she is not to be nurse to a sickly child but to a very virile, by turns comatose or violent adult man who has been retreating into his own world ever since he was beaten badly during a robbery a year or so prior. Trey had been a man about town when he was set upon by thieves and paralyzed and he has slowly been slipping into insanity, abandoned by the same society that once toasted him. But with the advent of Maria, there is something that pulls him back from the edge. And he's not happy about stepping back from the brink, thinking, no knowing, that he's not a complete man. Maria masters her fear of the mercurial and dangerous Trey, proving incredibly devoted in nursing him back to health and ultimately falling in love with the man she knows instinctually is in the shell he so despises.
Sutcliffe tells a different story than so many, making her characters work incredibly hard to overcome their tortured pasts and then still putting the stumbling block of being of different classes in front of them. That she doesn't completely resolve the plot in the end is frustrating but if it had stood alone, that wouldn't have been as infuriating as it is to find that you must read a later book in order to find out how Trey and Maria's desire and devotion are rewarded. This is the second book in the series so perhaps I would have been happier having read the first one before this. As it is, the ending felt hurried and unfinished and left me feeling unsatisfied with the book as a whole.