This book is set in the 1820s, so technically, it's not a Regency romance, because the Regent is now king. But close enough.Lily is definitely wild and reckless - but she's also the toast of the ton; well, the gentlemen of the ton, anyway, including His Royal Highness. Lily gambles, smokes, and hunts like a man, while remaining ultra feminine and a flirt to boot. Everyone knows the story of Lily being jilted practically at the altar, and her subsequent trip to Italy for a couple of years. When Lily returned, she was no longer the young deb; she became the wild woman that she is now, associating with the likes of Derek Craven, owner of the most fashionable gaming hell. Derek was a street youth living day-by-day rescued by a lady who took him to her bed and taught him how to make love. She kept him long enough that Derek found favor with the ton, and he found the money to open his gaming hell. It's said that Lily and Derek are lovers. But they aren't - they're simply the closest of friends, and only Derek knows the truth about Lily's darkest secret that involves a little girl named Nicole.Alex is the haughty Lord Raiford, known for his self-discipline and remoteness. He detests spectacles and Lily is making one of herself in front of him on HRH's boat excursion. And then she makes another fuss at a hunt Alex is at, uncovering Alex's Achilles heel - 2 years ago, Alex's American fiancee, Caroline Whit-more was killed when she persuaded Alex to allow her on the hunt; Caroline was thrown from her horse and broke her neck. Alex still mourns for her, and he vows not to allow his heart to be touched by anyone again. He grew up watching his mother make a fool of his father over love and lovers... and Alex took on the lordship at an early age, raising his younger brother alone.The two finally clash head-on when Zachary comes to Lily and begs her help. Lily's sister, Penny, is engaged to be married to Alex, and Zachary thinks that she fears Alex. The truth is that Zachary is in love with Penny and she with him, but poor old Zach doesn't have the title or the money necessary to tempt Lily's parents. Since her return from Italy, Lily's parents have cut her off, not able to condone her wild behavior. Lily has been living on the legacy left her by a dear aunt - the very one who traveled with her to Italy, who also knew her secret. Lily doesn't want to embarrass her sister or her family over Zach's accusations, so she makes a deal with Zachary that if Alex is as cruel, horrid, and overbearing as Zach paints him to be, Lily will stop the marriage, whatever it takes. Zach, you see, was an old friend of Lily's former fiancee, and he offered for her when she was jilted; Zach did what he could to stop the gossip and scandal. And now Lily thinks she owes him a debt - one that she can repay by seeing for herself the situation with Penny and Alex.Back to the hunt, where Alex's horror over Lily's behavior and his nightmares over Caroline's death converge. Lily decides that Alex is, indeed, cruel, heartless, and not right for Penny. So Lily shows up the next morning at Alex's home, where her father, mother, and Penny are residing until the wedding in just a few weeks time.OF COURSE there's an amazing attraction between Lily and Alex from the first moment - one that neither will admit to themselves, much less to each other. And of course, Lily behaves in wild, infamous ways; except she discovers she's met her match in Alex, and so she steps up the game. She kidnaps Alex's younger brother (he comes willingly and unaware that he's being "kidnapped") and takes him to Derek Craven's establishment, putting him under the care of the proctor - a man she can trust to keep the 13-year old from trouble. Alex, of course, follows her to London, where Lily ties him up with a rope to her bed... and what sounds kinky isn't. Lily leaves him there overnight, just long enough for Zachary and Penny to elope. I thought that Lily meant to compromise Alex, forcing him to marry her; but nope.Here's the rub: As Alex lays an entire night tied up with Lily's harsh character assassination ringing in his ears, he does a 180 and becomes a whole new man. A gentle man. A man who faces his anger, regret, grief, and fear. Huh? I can't quite buy that being tied up with ropes to a bed for a night is enough to cause a total conversion - a Damascene experience, like St. Paul went through. All we know for sure when he's untied by Lily's ultra-smart butler is that Alex has decided just how to get back at Lily. We think it's something deliciously evil, but it's worse than that... Alex is trying to humiliate her, but also pursue her.What Alex doesn't realize is that Lily needs 5000 pounds NOW to redeem her secret. Derek is no help - when money is involved, it's like they're not friends at all. And Lily is losing at the tables, not winning. When Alex shows up and bets Lily 15-thousand pounds against a night with Lily, she can scarcely refuse it. But, of course, Lily loses, and Derek demands that Lily pay up - even providing his own apartments as the place, so she doesn't welsh her bet. (Because many of the men in the establishment bet on whether Lily would win or lose, too, and Derek can't afford to cross his patrons.)Lily's one and only bedroom experience was with a so-called Italian-stallion, who was supposed to know how to please women. But he didn't please Lily, and she's associated sex with that unpleasantness and all that followed. Alex takes her by surprise when he actually makes love to her. And so begins the unraveling of Lily.--------------I was definitely caught-up in the book... it was a page-turner. But when Alex did his 180 and turned NICE, I had a hard time swallowing it. OK, so he doesn't intend to be that nice to her... he doesn't intend to fall in love or marry her. But he does. And Lily withholds her secret for TOO LONG! This man, Alex, has given her everything, even proving he's not immune from scandal, and Lily still doesn't trust him. Which, of course, almost destroys them both.And that's why, rather than 4+ stars, I can only give this book 3 stars.