Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton, knows all about scandal and the unforgiving opinion of the ton. When his father, the Duke of Greystone, married a lowly bookkeeper to an infamous gambling house he did so for love. But growing up Rex was bullied by his peers for the circumstances of his mother’s birth. They never let him forget where his mother came from. Eventually he fought back and learned how to demand the respect of London society, but his experiences from childhood have led him to decide that once he finally settles down in marriage it will be to a woman above reproach. He is heir to a dukedom after all, and commands vast influence and respect, any woman he chooses to wed must be without scandal, he simply won’t let his children suffer as he did.
When he is approached by a gentlemen offering up the stud services of his champion stallion in exchange for a pretend courtship of his niece, Rex readily agrees. He need only accompany Miss Hammersley to a few engagements, ask her to dance a couple of times and show her a bit of attention and his place in society should do the rest. Then he meets her notorious sister, and is lost to desire.
Matilda Paget, the Countess of Landsdowne, has few regrets over creating the scandal that resulted in her divorce and loss of status within the ton. After marrying young, she soon realized that she was naïve to think her husband would honor his vows. After years of a cold, loveless marriage where her husband regularly committed adultery and her in-laws never let her forget that she was less because of her American roots, she decides to set-up a scenario her husband can’t possible ignore and gets caught kissing a footman. Her only regret is that her younger sister is also bearing the brunt of her scandalous behavior. Gina desperately wants to find love and marry into aristocratic society, yet remains on the sidelines, her dance card empty. Enter in one powerful Marquess who appears interested in courting one sister, but can’t seem to hide the heat in his eyes when looking at the other.
It occurred to me at about the 50% mark that even when I don’t particularly love the set up of this author’s romances, she always ends up winning me over in the end. Because let me tell you, as much as I enjoyed Matilda, Rex, and their HEA, I really didn’t love that they met because he was pretending to court her sister. The first 35% or so are of them getting to know each other while Rex is taking Gina out on engagements and Tillie is accompanying them as chaperone. All they can think about whether they are together or apart is their lust for each other. Tillie lusts after Rex and feels guilt because she thinks he is seriously courting her sister. Rex lusts after Tillie, but knows it can only go so far because there is no way he will ever fall for a woman with such a shocking reputation. In the middle is Gina, who is no fool and knows exactly what is going on between her sister and Rex.
Things didn’t pick up for me until after Rex’s agreement finally comes to light. Then it’s all sighs, and tons of highlighted quotes and just the right amount of sexy times. I blew through the last half of this book in a couple of hours when the first half took me a couple of days to get into. Once Rex and Tillie get together and begin to be honest with each other I loved them together.
Rex begins to say things like this:
“To hell with the seduction,” he rasped. “You seduced me the moment you strolled into the parlor and offered me whisky.”
“You told me your father was losing his eyesight,” she said quietly.
“He is. If you watch them closely enough, you’ll see she’s leading. that’s what love is, Tillie, making the most of a bad situation, doing what one must to ensure the other is happy. You want New York? You can have it. I’ll go there with you.”
And thinks things like this:
He adored her for it. For not staying with the unfaithful bastard, for recognizing she deserved better, for using whatever means necessary to free herself.
For taking a chance, for being with him now.
Seriously, this author can write the hell out of a romantic scene. When her heroes fall in love they tend to fall hard and turn from alpha male into swoon-worthy alpha male willing to do anything for their lovers. Rex has to get over his ideas on what kind of woman he wants for a wife and let love and happiness guide his heart and Tillie has to overcome her doubt and fear that another man will let her down. Once they do… ∼happy sigh∼.
While it took me a bit to get into this romance, I ended up really enjoying this couple and their HEA. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series and finding out who Gina falls for. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she and Andrew, Rex’s younger brother, will end up together. Final Grade- B-
He would forgive her tardiness, forgive her anything. He would wait until the end of time for her.
An Affair with a Notorious Heiress by Lorraine Heath