. . . there were just too many flaws to recommend. I love discovering new/debut authors and I was very keen to read this one but ultimately it's a disappointment.
Sarah Wellsley is a widow who has accompanied her spoiled, self-centered cousin Caroline to meet Caroline's prospective husband. Sarah's marriage was an unhappy one and she has no desire ever to marry again and give up her independence to a man. Since arriving at Caldern several weeks past, she has enjoyed a morning swim in a secluded pond on the estate. But one morning her solitude is interrupted by the appearance of a handsome stranger. They share a steamy kiss, neither realizing who the other is. When Sarah learns that the man who caught her naked and kissed her so thoroughly is, in fact, Caroline's intended, she tries to blend into the woodwork. Unfortunately, he has other ideas and refuses to let her.
He is Alex Norward, Marquess of Caldern who is recently returned from abroad to take up his duties, one of which is to marry and produce an heir. Unfortunately, it is not Caroline who warms his blood, but her unassuming cousin, Sarah. He is very attracted to her and she to him, but she is determined to resist him. He tries to back off and adhere to her wishes, but the more he is around her the more he wants her. He is certainly not going to marry the self-absorbed Caroline, but how to convince Sarah to take another chance on marriage - with him? But strange accidents begin to happen to Alex and he ultimately must face the fact that someone wants him dead - but who?
While I enjoyed aspects of the story and I liked Sarah and Alex, I found much of this a bit of a muddle. Alex is inconsistent in his actions alternately vowing to leave her alone and trying to seduce her. He initially singles her out for so much attention, in front of his entire family, guests and household, it would have surely been considered scandalous at the time. At one point he decides that she would be a good match for one of his stepbrothers but becomes furious when they speak together. His moods swing from brooding to mischievous and back again often. Caroline's character was so completely without merit that it seems inconceivable that anyone would want to marry her and given his apparent dislike of his step-mother, it seems unlikely that he would have left the choice of his future wife in her hands.
The mystery of who was trying to kill Alex was interesting (the culprit was a surprise) but could have been better executed. And I found there to be a few too many secondary characters - his step-siblings, his friend David, and his two (yes two!) bastard step-brothers - leaving the impression that, at least the last three were simply there to introduce future heroes for future books.
This author shows some promise but this attempt just fell a bit short of the mark. The cover art was very attractive, though - except they should lose the orange lipstick! It looks as though she has a book in the works for step-brother Nathan Carter and perhaps I'll give that a try, but first I'll wait to read reviews :)