Monday, May 17, 2010
Lessons from a Scarlet Lady
Life is full of suprises and love is the most perplexing mystery of them all... - Lady Rothburg's Advice
Emma Wildes has done it again, engaging the reader in another splendid regency romance full of wicked seductions and tender romance. While this book is the author's second offering in the historical romance genre, the story is not connected to her previous book, An Indecent Proposition, so do not feel you have to read these two books in published order.
So, we start off by meeting Brianna Northfield, the sweet, young bride of the Duke of Rolthven, Colton Northfield. Colton is as straight-laced as they come and the typical aristocrat who is all about duty and honor to his station. But after three months of marriage, and very little free time together, Brianna fears that if she can't keep Colton happy, he may seek his happiness elsewhere - it is, of course, the aristocratic way. But Brianna loves her husband, and if Colton can't comprehend that, perhaps a little penned advice from a courtesan may help Brianna's cause. Armed with suggestions from the scarlet lady, Brianna seduces her husband, causing him to trip over himself in surprise as he falls for her hook, line and sinker. But when things get really heated in and outside the bedroom, Colton begins to wonder where his young, seemingly-innocent bride is learning all these wicked tricks of seduction. Confiding in his rakish brother, Robert sees nothing wrong with having a beautiful wife wanting to entice and seduce her own husband and encourages Colton to enjoy it and consider himself the luckiest of men. What man wouldn't want that from his own wife?
Like An Indecent Proposition, Ms. Wildes weaves an enjoyable secondary story into this book with the focus shifting to Colton's brother Robert. When one of Brianna's closest friends needs to escape the attentions of an unwanted suitor, Robert steps in to help Rebecca, but both step out of their impromptu embrace feeling bereft. Rebecca's tell-tale blushes appear, even at the mention of Robert's name, but how can she approach the notorious rake when her parents are pushing her into the arms of the third, more respectable and marriageable Northfield brother, Damien? Damien recognizes the chemistry between Robert and Rebecca and offers to help her catch the rake's heart. But when Brianna loans Rebecca Lady Rothburg's wicked book, it might just give her the confidence she needs to go through with a seduction of her own. Can she eventually bring this rake to his knees?
Lessons from a Scarlet Lady starts first and foremost by introducing us to a short preface published in 1802 from a fictional book titled Lady Rothburg's Advice. As the story continues, each chapter starts off with an excerpt from this wicked tome, tying in nicely to the events of the story as they happen. I really like the use of this tool, which is nothing new, really, if you read a lot of historical romance like I do. The book also flip-flops between the two story lines, which at times does become a little annoying, especially when the plots thicken. Its like jumping between spoonfuls of chocolate ice cream and mashed potatoes... you kinda want to enjoy one before moving on to the next rather than alternating bites. Catch my drift? An Indecent Proposition appeared to have less noticeable seams in that regard.
But all that aside, Brianna and Colton's story was a breath of fresh air because their story takes place after they are already married, and this balances nicely with Robert and Rebecca's romantic chase. The stories really compliment and intertwine nicely which makes for a very enjoyable read. I did prefer Brianna and Colton's story more, which makes sense since they were the primary characters of the book. But Robert and Rebecca's story frustrated me somewhat because I saw so much potential for highlighting their shared love of music or even communicating their feelings through music, but that whole part just seemed to fade away. I also wanted to know more about Rebecca's compositions and how she came to compose her works - like how her moods or unrequited love may have been illustrated in her music. I think it could have added a lot more depth and romance to the story. At times, Robert's character seemed a little forced to feel what the author felt he should be feeling but perhaps focusing on the music could have softened his heart even more. A lost opportunity, in my opinion. And while Rebecca is clearly the aggressor in this story, she becomes a bit too aggressive especially given the time-period and that really irked me.
Now, I must talk about brother number three... I loved Damien and really wished there had been more to his story. He was bright, fun to read and seemed like a really neat guy all-around. He saw the clues and formed a plan, then plotted against his own brother and enjoyed every moment of watching him fall victim to the seduction by his future mate. At the same time, he was sensitive and caring and really became the hero of Robert and Rebecca's story, in my opinion. While I appreciate that he wasn't ensconced in a love triangle, he just added a dash of je ne sais quoi to the whole tale. With that, I was a tad disappointed with the epilogue because it really didn't tell the reader anything new. It would have been nice to see a year or two down the road, and maybe include an update on Damien, or perhaps a teasing request from him to borrow the book. An update on Brianna and Colton's story would have been equally welcomed considering how their tale ended. BUT, we did get a treat with Lady Rothburg's epilogue to her book, which was perfection and really a reminder for us all.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, even if I did enjoy An Indecent Proposition a bit more. I highly recommend both of Ms. Wildes' historical works and look forward to her next Signet release My Lord Scandal due out in September which starts a series titled The Jaded Gentlemen. Ms. Wildes also has a backlist of books in the erotica section should you wish to explore her other works. I'll stick with the historicals. :)
My rating: 7 – I really enjoyed it