Favorite Quote: "Do you think a woman, experienced or not, cannot tell if a man puts true emotion into a kiss? "
I'm a well established fan of Ms. Wildes's historical romances. I enjoyed her previous trilogy, Notorious Bachelors, a great deal and was excited to see her starting a new series. Ms. Wildes has a unique approach to historical romances. Her heroes and heroines are never over burdened with misunderstandings or book filling situations. Sweetly portrayed characters exist in viable storylines. Not overly emotional or angst driven, her books fill a nice spot on my bookshelf.
I wish I could say this story blew me away me, but I cannot. An interesting premise and mildly intriguing mystery that never seems to quite gain a foothold and expand. A deliciously decorated package that when opened, lacks substance. The best I can say is that it is sweet. The characters are sweet. The plot and subplots are sweet. The rescue is sweet. Even the villain, who isn't really a villain, is sweet. There is no sense of adventure within the plot, only mild intrigue and suspense. No standing on the precipice, quivering in anticipation wondering what will happen. I knew from the beginning what the end would hold in store for us. Our main protagonists, Elena and Ran, are calm, rational, and mild mannered. No arguing. No fussing. I was taken back that Elena remained as calm as she did. She awakens in a strange place, almost stripped bare, with a strange man. She doesn't succumb to hysterics or even accuse him of setting it up. Ran, on the other hand, does have a realistic moment when he accuses Elena of trying to trap him into marriage. She quickly disabuses him of this idea when it becomes apparent he really doesn't have anything she needs. She's rich and engaged to be married. I would have loved to see some conflict between them concerning the situation they find themselves in. Rather, we are treated to the beginnings of a lovely, somewhat textbook, first romance.
The secondary romance, which receives as much attention as the main romance, was more interesting to me. Benjamin Wallace, Lord Heatherton, married his bride six months ago and admits he married her for her looks and the fact that it was time. A former political analyst during the war, he is a seemingly cold, inattentive man. His wife, Alicia, comes to him with a cleverly stated ultimatum. She wants a different marriage. She feels that their marriage of convenience could be so much more if Benjamin would just open up to her, so she tells him she would like them to spend more time together getting to know one another before continuing their conjugal visits That's right. She kicks him out of bed till he straightens up. Ben is quite funny in his shock and dismay that his wife is giving him this ultimatum. He can't believe she dares, yet it works because he begins to notice her more. As if seeing her for the first time, Ben begins to see beneath the trappings and notices her beauty, wit, and charm.
The love scenes between both couples are done well. I loved that in each romance, lessons are taught and learned. Both of our heroes keep their emotions well hidden to avoid any romantic entanglements, each choosing a different method to ensure the women they are with never gain access to their hearts, therefore making them vulnerable to pain. The slow dissolving of the walls each man has built is well done, though I felt the love aspect for our kidnapped couple happened fast.
Why would someone kidnap an innocent and a well known rake? How was the villain able to kidnap them from under the noses of everyone? Are they together? Ben asks these questions and more when Elena's father comes to him for help in finding Elena and tampering down the gossip already running rampant. Ben receives some unlikely help in his quest to find the couple which helps to facilitate his own romance. There are a limited number of secondary characters for a book this size, which surprised me. With such an elaborate plot, I expected more characters to be a part of the undertaking. Maybe more will be revealed in later books. Our kidnapping victims are rescued, more by chance than anything else, and the true villain behind the kidnapping is never revealed, leaving us in the dark about the reasons this entire scenario happened in the first place. A viable resolution combined with an epilogue gives clues that lead me to believe we will not know the true reasons behind any of this until the last book in this series.
Overall rating: C-