Objectively, this is not a stellar book. It's fine and everything works for the most part, but there's nothing here that should blow me away or that's special. Yet, for some reason, I love rereading the second half of this book from time to time. I don't know. I can't explain it.
Ellie is a spinster poor relation who has spent her whole life tending to her younger cousins because of her gambling father. Damien is an illegitimate gambling club owner who has a childhood connection to Ellie's cousin, Walter, who stole something that relates to Damien's murky past. To get it back, Damien decides to kidnap Beatrice, Walter's cousin, but ends up with Ellie. They don't know that until they're up in an isolated Scottish island.
There are a lot of readers, particularly these days, that would be turned off by the kidnapping trope. It's not really a deal breaker for me--it usually depends on the context and the way it's written. It's not great, but it's not as bad as others I've read.
The romance is actually pretty good -- I buy the slow build and the reasons these two come together, their bumps in the road. I like both the characters, but I think the overall plot is pretty weak and the supporting characters are cardboard and one-dimensional.
I think it's a good book that's worth reading once, maybe twice. With a tighter plot and better supporting cast, it would have been much better.
I like the idea of Damien's past and his search for answers as the driving plot, and I get the sentimental nature of the key but honestly -- all of this to get a key? I didn't have a clear understanding of what Damien planned to do with that key. I wanted something else to cling to. That whole plot just kind of meandered a long and while I liked the revelation of the truth and the connection to Lady Anne, I was mostly bored by it.
I was also not especially impressed by Ellie's family and the one-note of villainy. I mean, every single member of that family was completely awful and it was just boring. There was no texture, no complexity. I wish Beatrice had been more interesting. There was a moment when I thought she might have more depth, but not at all.
I'm also never wild about kids in these books because I always feel like they're used as props. One of my favorite soap operas right now keeps having kids force their parents together and it's just lazy. Lily was sweet, and I didn't hate her presence in the book. I just don't love it.