I really REALLY want to give this five stars because it was a really enjoyable fun read and well written. Loved the set up and loved the Inferno Club members. The love story in this was really sweet and nicely done, had a lot of passion which I wasn't expecting and is why I loved it all the more. I just had some problems with the heroine in this.
This is the first book in the Inferno Club series. The Marquess of Rotherstone, Max is a leading member of the Inferno Club. He's decided it's time to settle down and get married in order to restore his family's good name. On his hunt for a wife he discovers Daphne Starling, the social butterfly who in Society's eyes has a open forgiving heart and befriends newcomers who are new to Society.
I loved Max. Really loved him! His charm and rakish looks, and sense of humor with a sweet tender heart that nobody knows about was really enthralling. He was just delicious all over. He has a tough cold-wall exterior but inside he fears he will never be loved and is very lonely and just wants someone to love him. You can see how much he struggled to keep his dual identities separate and just wanted somebody to truly love him. So I was rooting for him from the very beginning. Daphne on the other hand was up and down for me. I really liked her in the beginning. Yes she was a sweet girl with a big heart who was dedicated to helping out an orphanage (it's always the heroines who help out orphanages who are the most holier-than-thou for some reason--why is that?) and friendly to new people but it went downhill for me with how she handled and reacted to Max's steadfast pursuing of her. I understood her reservations to not wanting to get married unless it was for love. Who doesn't want that? But her persistence in pushing him away, accusing him of wanting to 'control her' and running off to get away from him because she was angry got to be real tiring and a little immature. Plus, plot-wise it dragged the story out and made things go along incredibly slow. I'm not a big fan of plots where the hero has to chase and beg and scheme his way to win the lady's hand in marriage. When the woman is at that point of sneering and yelling in the man's face to get away from her it just makes me cringe. Naturally Max could have handled the whole marriage proposal a lot better but I still understood where he was coming from and it broke my heart how desperate he was to make her happy.
So of course they FINALLY talk it out (after a ridiculous mess of miscommunication and misunderstanding) and get married. I can't say I hated Daphne considering how much she loved Max and just wanted his love in return but those control and trust issues of hers kept flaring up. She kept second guessing Max's real intentions and worrying about giving up her 'control' to him when there was none of that. Max never once tried to control her and was an incredibly attentive adoring husband. I mean where can I get a husband like that? And this is the thing that I had trouble understanding. Yes given the time frame and the society at the time, woman didn't have has much freedom to do whatever they wanted. I totally get that and understand the heroine's fear of not having a choice. Daphne wanted control of her future but her constant fear and accusation of Max and her father wanting to control her I did not understand because it was non-existent. Her father pretty much let her do whatever she wanted and was very lenient on her, her stepmother pretty much ignored her except for her meddling moments. So I felt it was more of an excuse to point against Max when she started to notice he was hiding something from her.
My main problem and the moment that made me cringe was her reaction to finding out Max was keeping a secrete. Good Lord. She really knows how to play the victim card. I really felt she was selfish with the way she kept going on and on about being betrayed, how deceitful her husband was, how wronged she was and how she was going to teach HIM a lesson. She never once thought the reasons why Max didn't tell her or thought of confronting him (only for a second but justified not doing it because once again he would 'control her', oh brother give it a damn rest lady!). Trust in a marriage is very important but she acted like he killed her best friend. She goes into a complete rage and runs off once AGAIN instead of a confronting him like any normal person would do. I thought it was melodramatic and just taking it too far. For someone who supposedly had a very forgiving big sympathetic heart, I didn't see any of those shining qualities come out. I thought she was really hard on Max and loved to set rules and ultimatums. Her attitude and how she handled it turned me off completely. Plus another thing that bothered me was the whole time after she found out the truth she was smug and excited about seeing his face to prove she won one over him. Whaaat? I mean really?? She seemed to enjoy getting back at him and not even once did she show signs of guilt or actual heartbreak over finding out her husband lied to her, it seemed more of a contest to her. I found it irritating and unsettling. It just left a bad taste in my mouth how she acted about the whole thing.
Aside from that I would have given this a 5 star. Gaelen Foley really knows how to write a yummy HR with some adventure thrown into the mix. I forgot how steamy her love scenes are. Wooh! Talk about passionate and intense. The romance side of this was 5 stars but for characters I give it a 4.