i've truly enjoyed this 'merry widows' trilogy. in order:
in the thrill of the night
just one of those flings
lady be bad
LADY BE BAD features a love story between a jaded 'duke of slut' and a physically and emotionally repressed bishop's widow. john grayston, lord rochdale, is a true rake. he's a professional gambler who lives a debauched lifestyle which includes intimate relations with many women and he's unapologetic about it. he has even ruined a debutante or two (according to the rumors). one of his colleagues challenges the widely accepted belief regarding rochdale's prowess in bed, and bets him he cannot bed the bishop's widow, known for her pious nature. rochdale accepts the wager and the seduction begins.
grace marlowe was taught by her late husband, the bishop of london, that giving in to one's emotions or desires is sinful. he had an image to uphold and therefore, grace was expected to put up an emotionless front at all times. because of this, she has become an expert at denying all of her urges, sexually or otherwise. so when rochdale begins following her with his smoldering eyes, she's put out of sorts.
please note that their first meeting actually takes place in the first book of the series, IN THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT and actually sets up the very beginning of this story where they find themselves together alone. i think it's important to read that book first so that the reader can better appreciate the differences in the hero and heroine and the challenges they will face as they find their way towards each other.
i loved the fact that the hero did not change his stripes immediately. for most of the book he was unrepentant. the exposing of his more sensitive and caring nature takes place in a believable manner. initially he's resistant to it, but it is grace who brings out his better nature.
grace also finds herself being positively influenced by rochdale, although she doesn't think so at first. he encourages her to be more self-empowered, a rarity for a man during this era. during this time the sexual attraction for them continues to grow in strength until neither is able to deny it.
it is around the point of the first intimate encounter where i felt the book is weakened. while it does showcase just how the hero and heroine are changing towards each other, it comes across as a bit melodramatic. the intimate scenes themselves are well written though and build up of the sexual tension throughout the first part of the book kept me on the edge of my seat.
why the four stars instead of five? the last couple of chapters feature the fallout from the discovery of the wager, which i expected. however, there was one more totally unnecessary misunderstanding tossed in at almost the very end and the hero and heroine behave in a way that almost erases the believability in the emotional growth they supposedly experienced through the story. although the misunderstanding does lead to an extremely romantic moment between them, i was willing to sacrifice that moment if it meant not having to deal with the foolishness behind that misunderstanding.
so it gets a solid 4 stars for a mostly mature romance between two emotionally dynamic characters who end up bringing out the best of each other, both sexually and emotionally. it also features well-written and engaging sexual tension and intimate scenes.