Setting – France 1783 (six years before the French Revolution) --- We are originally introduced to Marie-Laure as a scullery maid ordered to serve tea to the aristocratic family she was working for. She is nervous enough but more so when she recognizes the younger son, Viscount Joseph d'Auvers-Raimond as the wounded book smuggler of outlawed and banned books that she and her brother had cared for one night, only to have had him disappear the next day. During that short time, she became aware of him as a man and he, mostly in an unconscious state, inspired in her an awakening response that was so passionate in nature that she knew that the betrothal to a friend of her brothers could never be. Consequently, after the death of her father and no marriage in the offing, she was reduced to earning her way. Unfortunately, for a beautiful young woman, this involved fighting off unwanted advances from both servants and aristocrats.
Joseph recognizing Marie-Laure, and was determined to do something to save her from the advances he knew his father and brother would be making and planned that he would save her by staging a tryst before they got to her. As embarrassing as the public tryst was, Marie-Laure agreed to playing the part of his mistress as they innocently spent their evenings in discussions of literature. Soon, though they each began thinking of more enticing ways to spend the time as they fell in love and after Marie-Laures innocent but provocative seduction of Joseph the nights were most definitely spent in more than discussions. But as all romances go between aristocrats and servants, jealousies and hatreds would tear the two lovers apart as betrayals abound and a murder mystery needed to be solved. I think that for the readers who like a wealth of historical aspects thrown in to embellish their romances this book will certainly fill the bill and they will appreciate the many references made as well as the authors notes at the back of this story. The author writes in a very erotic tone both in the present, and then when separated, as letters were sent back and forth. As encompassing as the love story between the two protagonists is the author instills through the historical references, the heroines own independent spirit and mood of the common people over the excesses of the aristocracy in pre-revolutionary France. I found this to be an exceptional read that lovers of historical romances should flock to the stores to pick up and I recommend it most highly as both sensually stimulating with lush prose and captivating characters.