The Viscountess Cranbrook has reinvented herself since the death of her husband several years earlier. Once a lost, lonely young woman, she returns to London beautiful, vivacious and ready to take her place among the ton. She’s also ready to try out all the young men eager for an older, more experienced bedmate. She has no desire for a deeper connection, but only a few nights in the bed of a young lover. Eager to help her country and for a bit of excitement, she agrees to take on the role of Lady V at a local high-end brothel. She has been tasked with finding a traitor, and uses her mysterious act as a masked, unnamed Lady of the ton who charges ridiculous amounts just for the pleasure of her company and conversation hoping to find him. Then one night a man walks in who changes her life.
Dr. James Burnham has come to the brothel in hopes of interviewing a lady of the evening. As a member of the Society for the Comfort and Elevation of the Poor and the Betterment of Their Children, he has been wanting to talk to a prostitute to find out if they chose their circumstances or were forced into them for other reasons. He works tirelessly trying to protect children stuck in poverty and is interested in how education would help the poor elevate themselves in society. Paying the exorbitant fee for two hours with the masked Lady, he hopes she can answer a few of his questions. He doesn’t expect to be taken with her or to continue thinking about the masked woman long after he leaves her presence.
Most of the historical romances I’ve read involve an innocent young lady falling for an older, more powerful man. It’s unusual in this genre that the heroine be the more sexually experienced, or hold more power within society. But I was intrigued and have always enjoyed this author’s contemporaries so I decided to sit down and dive in. The beginning starts out a bit slow, but my interest built steadily as the main protagonists got to know each other. I was kind of surprised when James revealed to Catharine that she would be his first sexual experience. I had no idea there lurked a virgin hero within the pages of this romance.
The last half of the book was quite engaging. The mystery of the traitor, along with the plight of the children working at the gun manufacturer’s soon drew me in and kept me reading. More so than the romance actually. While I enjoyed James, who is a wonderful beta hero, I struggled with Catharine at times. I’m not exactly sure why. I found her sympathetic, but had a hard time connecting to her character. Nonetheless, she and James do have a sweet, spicy romance and a lovely HEA.
While Viscountess of Vice is the third book in the Regency Reformers series, I do believe it can be read as a stand-alone. Fans of mystery, intrigue and sexy historical romances will want to add this one to their TBR list. Final Grade- B-/C+
“I was waiting for you.” Tears gathered in her eyes. He had to swallow hard before he could continue. “I was waiting for someone to tell me– to show me– that perfection wasn’t the point, that intellect without heart is empty, that all the standards, rules, and moral codes in the world don’t mean anything without love.”