my hellion, my heart, brings together princess irina volkonsky and lord henry radcliffe, earl of langlevit. she's loved him since she was fourteen, but hasn't seen him since a mission in france went terribly wrong for him. the trauma of his time there has made him feel disconnected from emotion and unworthy of happiness.
princess irina is in her third season as the novel opens, having spent a season in st. petersburg and turned down many a proposal, and a season in paris where she turned down many more, she's gained the reputation of being frigid and an ice princess. the truth is that she won't marry someone who she doesn't love. and she loves henry. and no other man has ever been able to meet the ideal he's set for her. and as henry does everything he can to prove that he isn't worthy of irina, she recognizes that what she feels for him is something beyond a girlhood crush. he's it for her, even if he doesn't want her.
and this is the conundrum because henry wants her desperately, but he denies it. he doesn't believe that she could love him. he doesn't believe that he can be the husband irina deserves. so much so that he'd rather enter into a sham of a marriage with his best friend's widow than consider marrying irina. it's true that henry acts like a jackass for large chunks of the novel. he both reaches for irina and pushes her away. but the kind of trauma he is suffering, the pain he endures as a result of what happened—not just physical pain, but emotional—allow you to understand why he acts that way. even if it's clear that if he allowed himself to open up to irina he'd find a way to heal.
what's wonderful about irina is that she is so strong. henry puts her through hell, and she stands strong. she knows what she wants. she knows that she deserves more than what he gives her. she makes mistakes, but she also owns them. and when she and henry are forced into a dangerous situation by someone irina has always considered a friend, she doesn't lose her head. she stays strong and courageous and faces her worst fears head on.
**my hellion, my heart will publish on july 24, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select historical) in exchange for my honest review.