At 21, Gervase Ashford was used as a lady's method of breaking her engagement. He was humiliated, and his father exiled him from England. Gervase spent the next 9 years touring Europe, indulging himself in every debauched pleasure to avoid acknowledging how upset he is. But then, his father dies, leaving him Earl of Rosthorn. Before he can work himself up to returning to England, he comes across Lady Morgan Bedwyn, the youngest sibling of the Duke of Bewcastle. Gervase still blames the Duke for his exile, and decides to ruin Morgan's reputation as revenge. His plot is made easier because Morgan's older brother and guardian, Alleyne, goes missing and is presumed dead at the Battle of Waterloo. Morgan is left in his power, and he promptly ruins her in as many ways as possible. Then they return to England together, and he keeps manipulating events and coaxing Morgan into all these terrible situations. And then we're supposed to feel sorry for him, because when he was 21 he was accused of a crime. (He thinks to himself that 21 was too young to know how to deal with that kind of thing, apparently forgetting that the girl he's currently plotting against is fully three years younger than that.) And then, naturally, they get married.
This is my least favorite of the Bedwyn series by far, for the simple reason that I despised Gervase, from the tip of his phony toes to the top of his self-pitying head. The way he calls Morgan "cherie" in his oh-so-sexy French accent would be bad enough, but he compounds my distaste by reacting stupidly to other people's schemes and manipulating and taking advantage of an 18 year old. His "romance" with Morgan is icky and creepy and just not at all romantic in the least. Morgan, meanwhile, is strangely easy to manipulate into compromising situations. Her first few indiscretions are either accidental or seem very understandable, given that Gervase is a handsome man and she thinks she can handle herself. But after her name gets dragged through the mud and she's being snickered at in the street, to waltz and make out in a private room, without making sure the door is locked, while at a public ball shortly after your brother's funeral? And then to act surprised that you get caught and there are consequences? Beggars the mind. I know she's just a teenager (something Gervase should have thought about, that dastardly creep), but surely such an otherwise intelligent girl should have *some* common sense.