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Romantic, angsty and sexy - a wonderful read.
on 28 January 2013
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 sorry 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.
With thanks to Avon Books and Edelweiss for the review copy.