This book was a serious see-saw of a story. It swings wildly from two-star eye rolling moments to five-star bits of brilliant dialog.
The premise itself is solid Kleypas fare.
Poppy Hathaway is in love, and is loved back, but the object of her affection is the heir to a very old and very blue-blooded viscountcy. He's written her a flowery love letter declaring his love for her, but stressing that they must be discreet while he works to bring his father around to the idea of their marrying. Unfortunately, Poppy's sister's ferret has made off with this secret letter, and is running around the halls of the Rutledge hotel with it.
Harry Rutledge collides with Poppy as she chases the ferret down a passageway hidden behind a fireplace (Wealthy - check. Eccentric - check.) After a short acquaintance with her, showing her around his curiosities room where he keeps the automatons he makes along with gifts from around the world (Sophisticated and worldly - check. Intelligence in spades - check.), he decides he simply must have her. He then secretly pockets her love letter, schemes to force this suitor out of the picture, and manages to force her into marriage with him (Questionable morals - check. We've got a Byronic hero here, folks, lest the hamfisted imagery escape you.)
Much of the book, then, deals with Harry and Poppy as a married couple. She discovers his scheming before they marry, so she spends this time trying to reconcile her feelings for the man she likes but resents for betraying her. While she maintains her feelings towards the outmaneuvered suitor, she also acknowledges that he chose not to anger his father by eloping with her, and that Harry did put up the bigger fight. Still, she's not terribly turned on by having been fought over like meat then had her future all but decided for her.
Harry initially tries to win her over by lavishing money and gifts on her. Because of his traumatic upbringing, he is a stranger to love and so treats Poppy like a precious collectible and doesn't understand why it doesn't thaw her out. They bicker, they argue and you can cut the sexual tension with a knife.
The novel's problem is that it relies on a lot of shortcuts, like the Byronic hero template I mention above. We get pretty much all of Harry's tortured past divulged to us in two instances of dialog info dump, one when Cam confronts him over how he trapped Poppy in marriage and then much later when Miss Marks tells her supa sekrit tale of woe. The hotel staff offers marriage counseling with a smile and a wink. They were so underdeveloped that they congealed into a single character, one so cheerful that I expected them to break out in a Disney-esque song and dance number at some point. The secondary characters are fairly one-dimensional and exist only to move the plot or vomit bits of back story.
A kidnapping plot late in the book, where Harry is held against his will and Poppy ostensibly saves him, is downright baffling. I still can't figure out what that was all about. It wasn't to force one or both of them to acknowledge their feelings for each other, as they had just exchanged poignant "I love you" declarations beforehand. It just seemed to delay the end of the book.
All of the shortcuts, convenient plot massaging and relentless series baiting adds up to detract from what should have been the main event. Kleypas seemed to be writing Poppy's story out of duty, when she really wanted to be writing Leo and Miss Marks' story. Harry goes from regarding Poppy as an object to falling desperately in love with her, but we're never really shown why. Additionally, we're told about Harry, who he his and how he got to be that way, but I never felt that I got to see him acting out these traits the other characters assigned him. He's just a cardboard cutout with "brooding Byronic dude" scrawled in sharpie across the front of it.
I did enjoy reading the story Kleypas laid out for me, but I never really got to connect with and feel I knew the characters. There were brilliant bits of conversation or action here and there, but they were bogged down in an awful lot of telling and convenience. Sadly, this is not one of my favorites of hers.
Also, that epilogue was freaking retarded. Dumb ass cliffhangers like that are for soaps and kids' cartoons. Did not like.