One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

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Lady Philippa Marbury is odd. The bespectacled, brilliant fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby cares more for books than balls, flora than fashion and science than the season. Nearly engaged to Lord Castleton, Pippa wants to explore the scandalous parts of London she’s never seen before marriage. And she knows just who to ask: the tall, charming, quick-witted bookkeeper of The Fallen Angel, London’s most notorious and coveted gaming hell, known only as Cross.

Like any good scientist, Pippa’s done her research and Cross’s reputation makes him perfect for her scheme. She wants science without emotion—the experience of ruination without the repercussions of ruination. And who better to provide her with the experience than this legendary man? But when this odd, unexpected female propositions Cross, it’s more than tempting . . . and it will take everything he has to resist following his instincts—and giving the lady precisely what she wants..

Rating: A+

I’ve read all but one of Sarah MacLean’s other historical romances, but I think she’s outdone herself with this latest one.

It’s got everything – a gorgeous, tortured hero; an endearing, intelligent heroine; it’s romantic, it’s sexy, it’s angsty.
The plot revolves around the intelligent and curious Lady Philippa Marbury who is soon to be married and wants to know what to expect from the physical side of marriage. Unwilling to ask her married sisters (and even moreso her unmarried, but happily betrothed younger sister) she turns instead to her brother-in-law’s business associate, Cross, whose reputation as a womaniser will, she believes, make him the ideal ‘research associate’.

It quickly becomes apparent that Pippa’s ignorance is nothing to do with a lack of intelligence or understanding – she has never felt attraction or been desired. Cross wants nothing to do with Pippa’s ‘research’ – he recognises immediately that she represents a danger to his ordered existence, even if he won’t admit to himself just why that is.
The plot is actually rather slight – but that isn’t important because what this novel does so beautifully is chart the progression of the relationship between Cross and Pippa, showing how they connect with each other at a deep, almost primitive level. He ‘gets’ her in a way that nobody else ever has, and she displays a similar, instinctual understanding when it comes to him.

The central characters are well-realised and very engaging. Pippa is clever and inquisitive without being annoying or ‘feisty’; and Cross is suitably brooding and dangerous, trying to atone for what he perceives to be the sins he committed years ago which destroyed his family.

In many of the historical romances I’ve read recently – the majority of them, I’m sad to say, by newer authors – I’ve noticed a sad lack of sexual tension between the hero and heroine. Sure, they have sex – but there’s no sense of any emotional connection being built between them; there are none of those stolen touches or almost-kisses that a skilled writer can turn into something as scorching hot as an explicit sex scene.

Thankfully, Sarah MacLean is one of those authors. The tension between Cross and Pippa sizzles from the outset – even though he doesn’t even touch her for over half of the book. But this allows the author to make the most of the careless touch and the almost caress, culminating in the scene where he seduces her with his words alone.

If I have one niggle, it’s that the ending seemed rather rushed (although I liked Pippa’s solution and was amused when I read the author’s note about its derivation) and that it felt as though Cross, who has carried his burdens for so many years and has ruthlessly instilled in himself the belief of his guilt – was able to put that all aside rather easily. But there is no doubt that he earned his redemption, so I can overlook the rather hasty conclusion to the story.

The rake-and-the-bluestocking is a frequently used trope in historical romance, but I feel as though Sarah MacLean has given it a fresh lick of paint with this book. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, with compelling characters and a permeating sensuality. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Avon Books and Edelweiss for the review copy.

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Lady Eve’s Indiscretion by Grace Burrowes

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Pretty, petite Evie Windham has been more indiscreet than her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, suspect. Fearing that a wedding night would reveal her past, she’s running out of excuses to dodge adoring swains. Lucas Denning, the newly titled Marquis of Deene, has reason of his own for avoiding marriage. So Evie and Deene strike a deal, each agreeing to be the other’s decoy. At this rate, matrimony could be avoided indefinitely…until the two are caught in a steamy kiss that no one was supposed to see.

Rating: A

This is the seventh book in the Windham series, and another very enjoyable read from Grace Burrowes.

The story centres around the Duke and Duchess of Moreland’s youngest child, Lady Eve who, since having a serious riding accident seven years earlier, has cut herself off emotionally from her family and from the world in general.  She isn’t a recluse, she has simply lost her former joie de vivre; she continues to attend society events, make calls and do all the things expected of the daughter of a duke, but she is just going through the motions.

Her parents and siblings are all aware of the differences in Eve, but none of them knows what to do to help her; especially as Eve does not admit that there is anything wrong.  In this day and age, when we are familiar with the concept of counselling, it seems strange that Eve is allowed to continue in this vein for seven years without anyone trying to do anything to help – but this is the early nineteenth century, and there is also the sense that her parents and siblings don’t want to interfere for fear of making things worse.

There is one person who starts to get through to her however, and that is Lucas Denning, newly-minted Marquis of Deene, who is a long-standing family friend and neighbour.  He and Eve have rather an abrasive relationship to start with – they seem to like to annoy and argue with each other – but Deene is incredibly perceptive about Eve’s needs and is able to discern when she needs space and time to come to terms with things and when she needs pushing.

While being attentive to Eve, Deene is also struggling to come to terms with the workings of his estates and his finances, all of which have been under the stewardship of his cousin for a number of years.  His cousin is strangely reluctant to hand over the reins;  Deene’s preoccupation with his preparation for a custody battle over his dead sister’s child at first prevents him from being suspicious, but he eventually begins to smell a rat and enlists the help of Joseph Carrington, (Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (The Duke’s Daughters, #3)) to discover exactly what is going on.

One of the things I enjoy very much about Burrowes’ writing is the way she allows the relationships between her protagonists to develop over time.  In the books of hers I’ve read so far, the hero and heroine haven’t acted hastily on their attraction to each other and in fact develop a friendship before anything further happens between them.  That is the case here, too, although there are quite a few stolen kisses in the first part.  Eve is actually set on a “white” marriage (i.e, one in name only) but doesn’t tell anyone exactly why – and when she and Deene are caught in a compromising situation she is adamant that she doesn’t want to marry him, despite the fact that she is more than half in love with him.  She is eventually forced to capitulate (as the alternative would be her father and/or brothers calling Deene out!) and despite her fears, their marriage begins well and Eve is happy for the first time in years.

Of course, this state of affairs can’t last – and Eve’s jumping to rather an illogical conclusion is perhaps somewhat convenient for the sake of the plot.   It is just about plausible, considering her previous insecurities and fears, but the way their marriage hits the rocks because of it doesn’t quite work for me.

Burrowes’ writing is, as always, a joy and her depiction of the familial relationships is excellent.  The relationship between Eve and Deene is affectionate and very tender and I thought the way in which Eve gradually opens up and starts to ‘find’ her true self again – through Deene’s  patience and understanding – was very well done indeed.

If, like me, you like a good, character-driven romance, then this is definitely a book to add to your TBR list!

With thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Forgotten Queen by D.L Bogdan

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From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. As daughter of Henry VII, her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But she has rivals. While Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And providing an heir cannot guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an invading army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of tragic loss she falls prey to the attentions of the ambitious Earl of Angus—a move that brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal, secret alliances, and the vagaries of her own heart, Margaret has one overriding ambition—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost.

Rating: C

The story of Margaret, older sister of Henry VIII is possibly a less familiar one than that of his younger sister, Mary, and it’s that fact which initially attracted me to this book.  In fact, I think I’ve only read one other book about her – Jean Plaidy’s The Thistle and the Rose, which I read probably more than thirty years ago.

So I was interested in reacquainting myself with her story.

Margaret led a turbulent life that was frequently beset by tragedy.  Like many females born into prominent families, she was used as a bargaining tool, a means of cementing alliances, to which end she was married to King James IV of Scotland at the age of 13.

As a young girl, Margaret is shown to be intelligent and lively.  The early part of her life is dealt with very quickly, but before she leaves for Scotland, her father, Henry VII tells her that he has a dream that through her, the kingdoms of England and Scotland will be united, which of course does come to pass, although not in the way he had expected.   (Margaret’s great-grandson, James VI became James I of the United Kingdom in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth I).

Margaret’s husband is twenty-years her senior, handsome and kind; and she falls for him immediately.  They were married for eleven years, (during which time and she bore him six children, only one of whom survived infancy),  but those years are almost completely glossed over in the book and we do not really get to see or learn much of James at all, other than that his religious fervour is a frequent cause of discord between him and Margaret, and that he is not a faithful husband. Seeing their relationship from only one side serves only to distance James from the reader and I thought made Margaret frequently seem petulant and childish.

Margaret does grow throughout the story, but finds it difficult to work out where her loyalties lie; and her desire – incompatible with her position –  to be loved for herself and not for her status as queen, leads her to make some unwise decisions when it comes to her personal life.  She is often selfish and extravagant, and seems to have an enormous capacity for self-deception;  but she is utterly determined to do the best for her son and to secure his throne.

In terms of the writing, the book is an easy read – although I did find the author’s insistence at using “canna” (cannot) and “dinna” (did not) to somehow denote a Scottish accent incredibly annoying.  There was an overuse of exclamation marks in the first part of the book which was similarly irritating.  There was also a tendency for the author to suddenly jump forward a couple of years without any indication of which year it was, which I felt made for confusion.

There seems to be a trend in Historical Fiction at the moment to write using a first person narrative, and that is the case here.  I’ve said in previous reviews that this is not my favourite style of narration and I have yet to read a book to make me change my mind.  I can understand that it is perhaps thought to bring a greater degree of intimacy and immediacy to the reader, but in my opinion, that advantage is not nearly enough to compensate for the things that are lost by confining the story to a single point of view.  This period in history is full of conflicts between nations, power-struggles between factions and within families – the courts of Europe were awash with intrigue and political machinations which are often as mind-boggling as they are fascinating – so unless the writer is going  to continually slip into  “as you know, Bob”  dialogue, (which does happen here) first person narration can severely limit the scope of the story.

Margaret’s story is a fascinating one and one that certainly merits further exploration.  This book might serve as an introduction to her life, but it didn’t draw me in and make me feel ‘connected’ to the story.  I will say, however,  that if you are interested in Margaret’s life, and don’t find first person narration as objectionable as I do, then you might find The Forgotten Queen to your taste.

Published by Kensington Books, 29 January 2013.

With thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander

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For Winfield Elliott, Viscount Stillwell, finding a prospective bride always seemed easy. Perhaps too easy. With three broken engagements to his name, Win is the subject of endless gossip. Yet his current mission is quite noble: to hire a company to repair his family’s fire-damaged country house. Nothing disreputable in that—until the firm’s representative turns out to be a very desirable widow.

Lady Miranda Garrett expected a man of Win’s reputation to be flirtatious, even charming. But the awkward truth is that she finds him thoroughly irresistible. While Miranda resides at Millworth to oversee the work, Win occupies her days, her dreams…and soon, her bed. For the first time, the wicked Win has fallen in love. And what began as a scandalous proposition may yet become a very different proposal…

Rating: B

I found this to be a thoroughly engaging book, filled with humour and warmth. Set towards the end of the 19th Century, The Importance of Being Wicked tells the story of how Winfield Elliot, Lord Stillwell finally makes it to the altar after the three failed attempts detailed in Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements.

Our heroine is Lady Miranda Garret, a twenty-eight year-old widow who, though ostensibly just the owner of her late husband’s architectural business is actually running the business as well as being its chief architect. But this is the 1880s, and were these facts known, the business would quickly fail due to the reluctance of men to hire a woman to do such a job.

Miranda is sensible though, and knows she cannot keep up the charade indefinitely, and has therefore already made provision for taking care of her small staff when this happens.

She is forthright and independent – without being labelled ‘feisty’ (which often denotes a modicum of stupidity as well!) – and one of the things I really liked about her was the way in which she was gradually brought to realise how much she had changed since the death of her husband.

When she and Winfield meet, the sparks start flying immediately, and in fact, for the first part of their relationship, they are often barely civil to each other and eager to score points off each other. Winfield often comes off the worse in these encounters – in fact I rather liked the way he was thrown off balance by Miranda and became rather endearingly bewildered when in her presence.

The real heart of the book however is Winfield himself. I’d already developed a soft spot for him while reading Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements – he’s handsome, charming, funny and caring, but beneath the witticisms is revealed a man who, despite his many attractive qualities and his ability to laugh at himself, is just a bit insecure about himself and wants to be loved for who he is rather than what he has. While he comes to realise he has finally fallen in love, he is – given that he has already been engaged three time – naturally cautious about becoming involved again.

I always enjoy stories with plenty of good verbal sparring between the hero and heroine, and there’s no shortage of that here. I also particularly enjoyed Winfield’s relationship with his cousin Gray (whose story was told in What Happens at Christmas); there is lots of affection beneath the constant teasing and the depth of feeling between them is evident.

There is also a very slender secondary plot thread surrounding the mysterious Mr Tempest, the investor in Miranda’s firm, although anyone with a passing acquaintance with Shakespeare will have worked it out by the time all is revealed.

I do have one niggle with the story, however, which was the continual mention of Winfield’s reputation for ‘wickedness’ – which was then countered by someone saying ‘ you can’t believe everything you hear’ or pointing out that he was no better or worse than any other wealthy young man in his position.

Young men at that time were expected to sow their wild oats before they settled down (and many continued to do so afterwards as well) so the fact that Winfield was sexually experienced shouldn’t really have been made into such an issue. In fact, I don’t think he was wicked at all – just an incredibly charming and appealing man who didn’t have any problems attracting women – and I’m sure there could have been a less repetitive way of conveying both that, and the fact that Miranda is looking for something more than the sort of placid and civilised relationship she had with her late husband.

Finally, I’m surprised at the number of ‘meh’ reviews this book has received on Goodreads so far. I admit that I’ve read a number of rather disappointing historical romance titles recently, which has perhaps skewered my view somewhat, but this book delivered exactly what I’ve been missing in those others – engaging characters and the development of an actual relationship based on friendship and affection rather than the insta-lust and immediate bed-hopping which is such a poor substitute and which is sadly occurring in so many HRs at the moment.

With thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Reluctant Countess by Wendy Vella

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Regal, poised, and elegant, Sophie, Countess of Monmouth, is everything that a highborn lady should be. But Sophie is hiding a past that is far from royal. When Patrick, Earl of Coulter, realizes that her story doesn’t add up, he resolves to find out the truth of what Sophie and her sister-in-law are concealing. Although Sophie has every reason to avoid him, the handsome and charismatic Patrick awakens something wicked deep within her soul . . . a powerful need that Sophie must stifle in order to protect her place in society.

Despite Sophie’s humble background, the raven-haired beauty has won Patrick’s heart. But what Sophie needs now is an ally. Viscount Myles Dumbly, the disgruntled former heir of Monmouth, is determined to expose Sophie as a fraud to recapture his lost inheritance. Soon Patrick is drawn into a fight for both their lives. Somehow he must find a way not only to rescue Sophie from poverty once and for all, but to keep her in his arms forever.

Rating: C

This début novel from Wendy Vella was an enjoyable story and has much to recommend it.  Her prose is competent, she has created some engaging characters and in the later part of the novel, she has begun to chart the progression of the deepening relationship between her two protagonists as well as the development of a secondary romance.  The mystery surrounding Sophie’s true identity holds the attention but is not strung out for too long.

On the negative side however, there are times when the overall feel is rather too ‘modern’ and there is some anachronistic language which really could have been avoided quite easily.  And while I liked Vella’s portrayal of the relationship between Sophie and Patrick in the later stages, I thought it felt forced and progressed too quickly in the earlier part of the novel.  For example, at the very beginning, Patrick is vowing to expose Sophie as a charlatan – although what business it is of his I’m not sure; but not long after that he is lusting after her like a randy goat and before we’ve passed the 25% mark, is having his way with her in a carriage.  (And no, it’s not the fact that they’re having sex in the carriage that bothers me,  it’s that they’re having sex at all !) .  I’m not saying that physical attraction isn’t a very powerful thing – just that at the time the book is set young women, especially, were brought up almost in ignorance of sex and had to give great consideration to propriety and to maintaining an unblemished reputation.  (And given the situation Sophie is in, she has to be doubly careful of her position in society).  I find it hard to believe that, no matter how attractive the man in question (and of course, in these books they’re always devastating)  a young woman would throw caution to the wind in that way. Even if he’d offered her marriage, which he hadn’t.

Sophie begins the book being quite shy and insecure and although those qualities never leave her entirely, by the end she has grown up a bit and developed more confidence in herself.  Patrick is often rather overbearing and dictatorial, but he softens up as the story progresses; his childhood wasn’t pleasant, but rather than being one of those men who therefore decides he must be unlovable, or is unable to love, he has decided that he wants someone in his life and that he wants to show his own family the love he never had – which was a refreshing change.

All in all then, a promising début.  I wouldn’t mind reading more from this author, although I would like to see a little more relationship development in future books.

With thanks to Random House/Loveswept and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff

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Paris, 1919. The world’s leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Friedrich, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

Rating : C-

I tend to prefer to read historical fiction set before the twentieth century, but as I’m very interested in the events of the First World War, I was intrigued by the premise of this story, which takes place in 1919, shortly after the armistice.

Professor Rosenthal is a respected academic who has been asked to attend the peace negotiations in Versailles.  His daughter, twenty-year-old Margot, accompanies him; principally because she does not want to go home to Berlin where her wounded fiancé awaits her.

While I did come to enjoy the book, I have to admit that it was hard going for the first 50 or 60 pages.  The narration is first person in the present tense, which is not a favourite with me;  I frequently find it limiting and in this case, as Margot is quite a solitary person, there is a lot of description and not much happening.  The story begins to pick up shortly thereafter as Margot becomes acquainted with Krysia, a Polish musician who encourages her to think about who she is and what she wants – and Captain Georg Richwalder, the young German naval officer who gives her a job.

Jenoff does a good job in creating the atmosphere  of post-war Paris, but I had hoped there would be a little more historical insight especially about the drawing up of the famous treaty and its likely effects. The latter half of the book concentrates far more on Margot’s burgeoning yet impossible romance with Georg and the untangling of the web of deceit which surrounds her and her father.

Margot is very naïve and frequently seemed to be drifting from one mistake to the next without asserting any control over her life. She has allowed herself to become engaged to a man she has known since childhood but does not love mostly because she feared the disappointment she would cause to others by saying ‘no’. When she finds real love with Georg, she is too weak to break off her engagement (although as it turns out, it’s more complicated than that).  Because of a careless word in the wrong place, she opens herself up to blackmail by what she believes to be a Communist group that wants her to pass on the information she is able to acquire about the German military through her work with Georg.

There are a lot of different plot strands weaving in and out, but none of them are fully explored or developed.  We discover that Margot’s father has deceived her about her mother; her friend Krysta also deceives her; Margot lies to Stefan and to Georg;  there is the fact that Margot is Jewish, yet by the end of the book Georg is beginning to sympathise more and more with the National Socialists.  To have dealt with all these strands satisfactorily would perhaps have required a longer book; or that the author had tried to cram less into this one.

There were a lot of anachronisms, too.  For instance, there is a reference to women having stopped wearing crinolines ‘recently’ and to ambulances having ‘sirens’ (surely they would have had bells?) There are a lot of expressions that feel too modern and those oft-used Americanisms, “fall” and “sidewalk”.  Then there is the fact that Georg, while suffering from pneumonia is up and about a mere couple of days after being taken to hospital, and Margot’s father is sent home a few days after having had a heart attack.

There was a good book in here somewhere – but sadly, I don’t think this was it.  There was real potential in the story and in the premise – especially given that the central characters were German and having to deal with the way they were perceived after the war, with how their world was changing and with the terrible problems of poverty and anarchy that were rife throughout their country.  There was a thread touching on Margot’s identity as a Jew and her discomfort with the move towards assimilation being taken by some members of her family, but that was never fully worked through either.

Having said all that, however, I didn’t hate the book.  I dislike the wasted potential, but even though the story was rather creaky in places I found myself enjoying it and able to roll my eyes at the anachronisms and clichés and then carry on reading.

By the end of the story, Margot is finally beginning to stand on her own, and the book leaves things open – will she return to Germany and to Georg or will she make a life for herself elsewhere without him?

Overall then, I have mixed feelings about this book.  Would I recommend it?  If you’re looking for a fairly quick read set in a time period which is not often featured in romantic HF and are in a forgiving mood, then yes.  But if you want something that is meatier when it comes to the historical detail, then this is perhaps not the book for you.

With thanks to Harlequin/Mira and NetGalley for the review copy.

A Little Deception by Beverley Eikli

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When she embarks on charade one night to save the family tea plantation, spirited Rose Chesterfield gets more than she bargained for: marriage to the deliciously notorious rake, Viscount Rampton. Unwittingly implicated in a series of high profile jewel robberies, Rose must outwit a jealous adversary in order to clear her blackened name. But can she regain the love and respect of her husband?

Rating: B-

I found this to be an engrossing and enjoyable read. A Little Deception is a romantic melodrama in which the heroine is subjected to the evil machinations of no less than three different characters, and the different twists and turns of the plot, in the second half especially, kept me anxiously turning the pages, desperate to find out how all the strands would eventually be unravelled.

The story starts with Rose Chesterfield insisting on accompanying her brother Charles to a dinner party in the place of his spoilt, selfish wife, Helena, who is, not to put too fine a point on it, too stoned to attend herself. Helena is in debt to the host, Lord Rampton, and Rose wants see if she can somehow get Rampton to give them a little longer to pay it off.

This “little deception” sets in train a series of events which involve Rose in an ever deepening mire of distrust and unwitting duplicity which could cost her not only her reputation and place in society, but her chance at happiness with the only man she has ever loved.

While it’s fair to say that the existence of a Big Misunderstanding between the hero and heroine in the romance genre is far from original, the author managed to retain my interest by the sheer audacity of some of the deceptions practiced upon Rose and Rampton, and by her abiity to keep piling on the angst until it seemed as though there was no way forward for Rose and that she really did stand to lose everything she held dear.

Eikli takes her time in setting the scene and familiarising us with her characters at the outset. The attraction between Rose and Rampton is palpable and the atmosphere crackles with sexual tension whenever they are together. Rose has always played second-fiddle to Helena and has never thought of herself as attractive; she has almost always subjugated her own wishes in order to do what she thinks is best for her family.

Helena is probably the most well-drawn character in the book. She is selfish, ruthless and utterly vicious; single-mindedly, she works towards to bring about Rose’s ruin and without compunction, draws others into her scheme to destroy Rose. So great is her cunning that the men she ensnares do not even realise the depth of her desire for revenge. I will admit that there were times in the story when I wanted to slap some sense into Rose as she fell for yet another of Helena’s lies, but conversely, Helena was so convincing in the way she played to Rose’s genuine desire to help her for Charles’ sake that it was easy to understand why Rose acted as she did.

Rampton is probably more of a conventional hero in that he is handsome, rich and somewhat autocratic. He is powerfully drawn to Rose, and believing her to be a married woman, intends to make her his mistress. But along the way, he begins to realise that while he lusts after her body, he is intrigued by her spirit and by the time her deception is exposed, he is well on the way to being in love, an emotion he had never expected to feel for the woman he would eventually marry.

For a time, the pair are happy, but it is not long before Helena’s jealousy begins to erode their happiness and confidence in each other.
I will admit that I did get a little frustrated at times by the fact that Rose and Rampton did not directly address some of their difficulties early on – preferring instead to reaffirm their sexual desire for each other in bed. And of course, even though both of them admit to knowing that the other could not possibly be capable of X or Y, things quickly escalate to a point where their lack of communication, aided and abetted by Helena’s machinations mean that their relationship has almost broken down completely.

Of course, all is discovered in the nick of time and things end happily – but I did take a kind of perverse enjoyment in the way my stomach was twisted into knots at each further deception.

I feel I can’t complete this review without commenting on the fact that there are a number of mistakes and typos in the copy of the book I received for review. Had there been just one or two, I would have let it go, but there were more than that, in addition to instances of the wrong name or word being used. On a purely personal level, this is something that irritates me because it takes me out of the story while my brain makes the required corrections. I know it’s not a deal-breaker for some, but I feel that if someone is paying good money for a product, they should be able to expect it to be as good as the producer can make it. Hence, I felt I had to downgrade the review from the B I was going to award originally.