A self-made businessman who wants to climb the social ladder agrees to help a lady inventor find funding in return for her matchmaking skills in early Victorian London.
On a rainy night in Belgravia, inventor Diana Ashby is late for a scientific lecture when she spots an altercation in the alleyway. She manages to scare off two ruffians with her umbrella only to find herself looking up at a very attractive gentleman. Aidan Iverson is a wealthy self-made investor and part owner of Duke’s Den, a gentlemen’s gambling club that also functions as a Victorian version of Shark Tank. Abandoned to a workhouse as a child, he is determined to discover his true parentage while at the same time finding a well-born bride whose social status can raise his own. Diana and Aidan strike a deal: She, a well-connected baronet’s granddaughter, will find him a match, while Aidan will locate an investor for her manual vacuum cleaner. Diana is under pressure to make her own match, but an investor could help her family’s finances just as much and without forcing her to forsake her one true passion in life. Aidan and Diana are both intelligent, tenacious, and driven. Neither seeks love or marriage for its own sake, but as they spend time together, their own romance blossoms, and their goals shift. The nobleman’s gambling den has been overdone in historical romance, although here the plot rests on technology and commercialization in England in the years leading up to the Great Exhibition of 1851. Readers will need to overlook Diana's unusual, and unexplained, amount of unchaperoned freedom. When Aidan admits, “I’ve never known where I belong,” he could be speaking for Diana as well. This is the second book in Carlyle’s Duke’s Den series, after A Duke Changes Everything.
Mature, interesting, and romantic protagonists elevate a familiar story.