Caroline Grey is suddenly dismissed from her post as Earl of Braithwaite's sisters's governess, when the earl's mother thinks she has designs on her son. The Earl, convinced his mother will soon change his mind, loans Catherine as governess to a mysterious tenant of Haven House and his mute daughter. And soon Caroline realizes this is where she's supposed to be, helping the little girl and her father rejoin society.
Javan Benedict is a recluse, determined to protect his daughter at all costs. But Caroline Grey soon makes him realize that protecting his daughter shouldn't be equated with keeping the girl a relative prisoner in her home. Besides, little Rosa falls in love with her new governess almost from the start and Javan realizes Caroline might just be good for him as well...
This story had an almost gothic feel with the overgrown, supposedly haunted house and its scarred, brooding tenant and his supposedly crazy sister (or is it wife?) and his mute, fearful daughter. But as you should never judge the book by its cover, so you should never judge people by their appearance or others's perceptions of them. And the heroine in this story proved to be just the right person for the job. She never judged, she just wanted to help however she could. Sure, she fell for her employer, but that's Romancelandia for you.
I loved Caroline and her gentle, caring and nurturing nature. She offered comfort with her presence alone, while always trying to stay in the background. And it took the right man to see her for what she was.
The hero needed some time to get used to, I guess. But as Caroline slowly got to know him (although he remained a mystery for the better part of the story), so did this particular reader, and I must say I liked what I discovered. A hero who thought his honor was in tatters, yet was determined at all costs to protect his daughter and spare her from gossip, scandal or any slights that might arise from his supposedly lost honor. Sure, he had his moments of obtuseness, mostly because he thought he didn't deserve to be happy (he was an epitome of tortured hero), but then there was his mischievous cousin to provide the swift kick Javan needed to see straight and finally realize what he wanted.
I liked how the romance seemed to progress slowly (even though it all happened in a week or two). I think it had all to do with the pace and the fact the reader discovers all these new things and gets to know new people alongside the heroine, so it all seemed longer. The progress of the romance was quite realistically portrayed (despite the swiftness of it) and it felt organic and true, which I appreciated.
The suspense didn't play as a pivotal role as in the previous books, but what there was, provided an added intensity and grip to the story. The villain was creepily twisted, the suspicion and the subsequent truth of his actions offered a counterbalance to the "lightness" of the romance with its darker topic, and the first big climax propelled the romance forward a little bit more.
The supporting cast was great, as usual, with old "friends" mingling with new ones and Javan's daughter, Rosa, was absolutely adorable.
This was another great addition to the series.