The prologue gives us a little back story to the Harrington brothers (from which the series of books spotlight). A very young Nathanial and his older brothers Sterling and Quinton.are sneaking around in the attic in search of treasure. The always adventurous lot find a large chest of their grandmothers belongings and find a journal in which she talks about smugglers. Being impressionable little boys, they decided they will play smugglers and bestow upon each other smuggler names. The prologue ends with a familial pact 'Brothers one for the other'. Which is touching, endearing and so sweet!
Anyway, our story picks up on a now grown up Nathanial Harrington who has come home to London with his brother Quinton after a long expedition in lands far, far away. They are treasure hunters (or artifact discoverers, depending on which you prefer) and rarely spend much time settled, enjoying balls among the ton; but their sister Regina is coming out this season, and family duties are family duties. Nathanial spot an guest with an odd out-of-place air about them and is immediately enticed. Miss Gabriella Montini has captivated our Harrington adventurer and doesn't even know it. Gabriella sticks to the perimeter of the ball, which is being held out on the terrace at the insistence of Regina. Her reasons for being at the party circle around the recent death of her brother, the only relative (that she knows of) that hasn't completely abandoned her, and her attempt to restore the discredited state of his artifact finding career. In letters to his sister, Enrico tells her that a ancient seal that was in his possession was stolen. He gives her information regarding his search for recovery of the seal which he presented to the Validation and Allocation Committee of the London Antiquities Society after it had been switched with an unauthentic duplicate. Enrico goes half mad with his obsession to reclaim what was his and is killed before he ever retrieves it. In his letters he names the two Harrington brothers among the possible suspects whom he showed a clay impression of the seal to.
During her first attempt at searching the library and secretary's desk, she is found by Nathanial and must give a quick excuse to hide any wrong doing. But in the haste with which she put together her alibi, she tell him they met once before, and that they dance, and he stole a kiss in the moonlight. Nathanial can't recall the incident, but wicked ideas are put into his head and it becomes and on-going thing for the two of them. A few days later, Gabriella breaks into the Harrington house and get caught by the little sister. She reveals her identity and her cause for suspecting the two brothers ;efficiently leaving out certain details which lead to her being invited to stay with the Harringtons by their mother while accepting the help of Nathanial.
Nathanial possessive and protective nature over Gabriella grows as their search for the seal that will prove the existence of 'The Virgin's Secret' and restore Enrico's name, takes them all over London and in the paths of very dangerous people.
As Enrico's true nature becomes clearer to Gabriella; that he saw her as an obligation, held no true love for her and used her to hold on to the finances left to her at the passing of their father; she also wrestles with the question of 'what happens next'. Gabriella trained herself and versed herself in all things ancient so as to become 'indispensable' to Enrico while he was alive and follow him on his adventures. Now that Enrico was gone, and the opportunities available to women in the archeology world that didn't involve scandal were scarce if any, Gabriella must also resign herself to the fact that Nathanial can never be hers after he find out about her own (non-virginal) secret.
At the end of the book, the seal was closer than Gabriella thought, and she almost loses her life trying to retrieve it (and letters to her mother) when the hiding place is set on fire. Nathanial resigns himself to being hopelessly in love with Gabriella and gives her the gift of family (she never knew she had), credit to a discovery she almost lost her life to find and love she though she would never be able to discover.
My favorite part of the book: Was the interactions between Nathanial and Gabriella. Especially in the library, where they tended to be often in the story. The sexual tension is insane, and unlike many other heroines in these types of books, she doesn't back down from flirtation and even answers it with surprising resolve. Many of my favorite scenes take place in the library (oddly enough).
As I said, the winning dialogue, and suspense filled settings of this book will truly spell-bound you and have you thinking 'The Virgin;s Secret' its so Mmmm Mmmm good. Delicious indeed.
The only down side to this book is that the writing style favored long winded scenes. Pace wise it was good, but I found myself reading two or three chapters that still had me in the same place. Long winded trains of thought took up a lot of space in the book. The beginning of the ball and the getting caught in breaking in took 5 chapters to cover. With such a great plot, you could lose a lot if you dwelled. It still had me asking for seconds!
*And seconds is just what you will get when you pick up the next addition to this series,'Desires of a Perfect Lady', Sterling's Story, in stores as of 3/30/2010!!!