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She’s considered one the most scandalous women in society…
Tess Darent is not the most impeccable member of the ton. A widow three times over, and known for her unusual tastes, every man in London seems to desire an opportunity with her behind closed doors. Yet, Tess has secrets that would do far more then ruin her reputation and all is about to be revealed.
Owen Purchase, recently named Viscount Rothbury, is on the hunt for a traitor to the crown and potentially a wife. When clues point him in the direction of Tess, she makes a tempting offer—marriage. Tess may think she’s getting a complacent husband willing to acquiesce to her every wish, but Owen has other ideas. Tess may find that secrets aren’t worth keeping, and what she truly desires is what she least expected.
I loved Owen. He’s intelligent, witty, and absolutely refuses to be run roughshod by anyone. He is literally a savior for Tess, since she has a mountain of baggage trailing behind her. Tess is definitely a multi-layered character, and you get to see two sides to a woman that was probably not a favorite in previous novels. The underlying theme I got from this book was that people use masks to hide their true selves or weaknesses. Owen and Tess come together and strip away those masks from each other. The journey the pair takes is filled with intrigue, emotion and definitely sexual tension; which is something Tess is desperately trying to avoid. A good tense-filled moment is after Tess asks Owen to marry her, he agrees but there’s a question as to whether Tess will commit or back out:
“And I will call on you tomorrow,” Owen finished, with a great deal of satisfaction.And it just gets better. I loved the way these characters interacted with each other. Both have forthright natures that clash consistently, but create the most wonderful romantically charged moments.
A tiny frown wrinkled her brow. “Call on me?”
“Unless,” Owen said, powerless to prevent the heavy irony that now coloured his voice, “you prefer me simply to send you a note with the wedding date so that you can meet me in church?”
“Oh…” She smiled deliciously, an echo of the superficially charming Tess Darent who was all pretence. “Yes, that would be extremely helpful of you. As this is a marriage of convenience I don’t think we need see each other a great deal before the ceremony.”
She started to walk towards the door. Owen took two strides backwards and reached for the handle just before she did. Her body collided with his. She felt warm, soft and yielding; Owen’s senses clouded with the scent of her and the heat of her skin. Desire flowered through him again as fiercely as it had done the previous night. He caught her wrist.
“I will not be a conformable husband, Lady Darent,” he warned. “You do not issue me with tasks and expect me to obey without question. I am not reversing the wedding vows along with everything else.”
Beneath his fingers he could feel her pulse racing. Her glove was no protection against the insistence of his touch.
This book is the fifth in Cornick’s Scandalous Women of the Ton series, and the second one I’ve read. I can honestly say that Cornick does not disappoint. Another character arc is wrapped up in this story, and for faithful readers of the series you may or may not be happy to know that the villainous Tom returns. Of course, other series characters are present throughout the story, and help create some interesting situations for Owen and Tess. The only thing that threw me off is the last quarter of the book went extremely different from what I envisioned. Although I was happy with the end, I expected a little more leading up to it.
Overall, a good read and fans of Courtney Milan are sure to enjoy this one.
*Original reviewed for The Season online E-zine. Be sure to check out other topic picks for December in the Historical Romance category at The Season site.