This book reminded me a bit of the "Fifty Shades" series - it's like a Regency version without all the kinky stuff. Maybe it's just that Derek had a rough upbringing and is now rich as Croesus; he reminds of Christian Grey (Fifty Shades), because both men don't think they're worthy of love - they both think that their lives are so messed up, that they're so soiled, that no woman with any good in her could possibly love them.Derek Craven... we met him in book #1; he's Lily's friend, the one who owns the most famous, most sumptuous gaming palace that caters to the rich and titled in London. Derek was born to a prostitute, who left him in a drainpipe; he was found by others and grew up in brothels and flash houses. Around 5 or 6, he became a climbing boy - a boy who climbs into the chimneys and cleans them. It's a dangerous job; if a boy gets stuck, they either light a fire under him or stick his feet with pins until he frees himself. And often, the boys are beaten. When Derek got too big to fit into the chimneys, he became a pick pocket. But he saw an older boy who had more money; the boy was a grave robber, bringing corpses to the local doctors and medical students for fees, not to mention what he got for selling the corpse's jewels and clothes. When Derek started having nightmares about the dead haunting him, he turned to working at the docks, where he was spotted by a lusty gentlewoman, who took him to her bed. Yes, Derek became a man-whore, servicing the women whose husbands were off with courtesans and prostitutes. It's how he got the blunt to start his gaming hell; his "patronesses" put up the money to get him started, and now he repays them in dividends.Sara Fielding is in her mid-twenties, considered a spinster "on the shelf". Except that she's been "going steady" with Perry Kingswood, the town squire in Greenwood Corners and considers herself affianced to him; Perry's mother is the problem - she was widowed when Perry was quite young, and his mother doesn't want to cut the apron strings. It also doesn't help that Sara is S.R. Fielding, the author of "Mathilda", a popular book about a prostitute in the bad streets of London. While few people know that Sara is the author, her little village of Greenwood Corners does know, and Perry's mother doesn't approve. Especially because Sara takes herself off to London occasionally to conduct "research" for her next book. Her research finds her in the worst possible places in London, interviewing beggars, prostitutes, pickpockets, and anyone else who will talk to her.Sara and Derek meet when she comes to his rescue. Derek is accosted in the street by two toughs who knock him out, then proceed to cut a large, deep slash across his face with a knife. Sara thinks they're going to kill him, so she pulls out her pistol (the one she keeps in her reticule for protection) and shoots one of the men in the throat. She only meant to frighten the men, but her aim was a bit too good. Sara then helps Derek back to his apartments over his gaming palace. She meets Worthy, the factotem, who brings a doctor to stitch Craven's face. Sara and Derek form a bond that night...Sara uses her rescue to wangle her way inside the infamous gaming palace. She decides to use it as the backdrop for her next book, and Sara wants to know everything there is to know about it. Worthy takes her on a tour (during the daytime, when there aren't any players about), and Sara quickly makes friends with everyone around - except Derek. He acts as if she is the plague, when, in reality, he's drawn to her and can't figure out why. Sara is too good, too pure, too spinsterish for him...Of course, the two fall in love. Of course, Sara gets herself into an impossible situation at a ball at the gaming hell, dressed as Mathilda; she only wanted to prove to herself that she could be desired for one night. That for one night, she could fool even Derek Craven into wanting to kiss her - which he does, and almost much more! Which leads them into a nasty argument, whereby Sara finds herself with Craven's rival, Jennings, in the middle of a riot in the London streets. This time, Derek has to come to her rescue; but after he kisses her, he tells her to go home.Sara returns home, only to discover that Perry is still unmoved by her pleas to kiss her or touch her - to make her feel desired as a woman. She's restless. Derek goes into a drunken stupor, something he's never done; he even tups one of the house wenches, who resembles Sara, and calls her "Sara". Tabitha, that house wench, visits Sara and tells her; Tabitha thinks that Derek is the best, and while she knows that he doesn't love her, Tabitha thinks that Sara should go to Derek and put him out of his misery.Of course, there's a jealous, vindictive Lady involved... Joyce, who's responsible for Derek's face. Derek had a long-standing relationship with Joyce, because she was up for any type of debauchery, and she kept his ennui at bay. But Joyce became too demanding, so Derek walked away. And that sent her into a rage - enough of a rage, that she got her revenge with the scar on his face. And after all of this, Joyce still thinks that Derek is coming back to her!So... we venture into the strange and wonderful tale of Derek and Sara. Along the way, we get to see Lily and Alex Raiford, from book #1. They're still in love, still married, and about the only real friends that Derek has, apart from Worthy. Lily even tries her hand at matchmaking, only to be both elated at its success and crushed by Joyce's machinations of trying to ruin Sara.All in all, there's a touching poignancy about this book. Sure, Derek's a tormented "bad boy" with a past, so you'd think he'd fit the usual mold for a romance hero. But it's more than that... it's deeper than that. Which is why in many ways, Derek reminds me of Christian Grey. And while I like Ana(stasia) with Christian, I like Sara even more as the Heroine. She's sweet and good, but she doesn't judge; she's not constantly trying to find out why Derek is why he is and peppering him with questions. Yes, she's curious, but she goes about gathering her information in an unobtrusive way. So there aren't the constant battles and the "Please don't be mad at me" conversations that almost ruin the Fifty Shades series.Sure, there's a bit of the fairy tale element involved... especially with the ending, where we see a very changed Derek. Yes, a good woman's love and adoration can go a long way to helping a man be the best man he can be, but... I do love how Sara and Derek become the darlings of the media and public; and because of that, the gentry can't stay away and stops most of their snide comments. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would! I really didn't think a story about Derek could be original and compelling, but it certainly was!