Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Lord Scandal

Despite her beauty, Lady Amelia Patton has lived a sheltered life among her books.  When she finds herself suddenly the toast of the ton, she is far from delighted.  Her father, Lord Hathaway wants her married off quickly, but the last person he'd choose for her husband is the son of his worst enemy...

Alexander St. James may be a thief of hearts, but he is no burglar.  Nevertheless, he must recover an item belonging to his family to avoid a scandal, and so he has stolen into the home of Lord Hathaway, not expecting to come upon the beguiling Lady Amelia in her bedroom, wearing only a lacy chemise...

From their first meeting, Alexander leaves Amelia breathless-- but is it from fear or from excitement?  Captivated by her beauty and charmed by her intellect, he ignores the scandalous whispers as he sets out to seduce the woman of his dreams...

A beautiful girl... a dashing rake... and a family scandal that threatens their future...

I was so excited to see Ms. Wildes come out with this trilogy after reading her last two books in this genre - An Indecent Proposition and Lessons from a Scarlet Lady.  (I reviewed both of these books earlier this year.)  Already an established historical erotica author, Ms. Wildes has done an excellent job crossing over into mainstream historical romance with stories that are sensual, lush and super romantic.  And wow, she has made a fine start with this Notorious Bachelors trilogy.  The Notorious Bachelors are Lord Alexander St. James, Luke Daudet, Viscount Altea and Michael Hepburn, Marquess of Longhaven - three friends who have returned to London after serving together in Spain.  We begin with My Lord Scandal (book 1) which tells us Alexander's story...

Alexander St. James is the younger son of a duke and is asked by his grandmother to retrieve a sliver key that she believes to be in Lord Hathaway's possession.  There has been a feud between the Hathaway and St. James families as a result of a scandal that happened years ago and sending Alex into the lion's den is indeed a risk but one right up his alley after his adventures in Spain.  But when he emerges from the Hathaway house empty-handed, he finds Hathaway's daughter out on her balcony looking as if she's about to faint.  There to catch her and return her safely to her room is Alex, and deciding to make the evening not a total loss, he steals a kiss before he leaves.

Lady Amelia Patton, is stunned to find this man - this gentleman - on her balcony.  And when he steals a kiss, she's intrigued and determined to find out who he is.  Amelia's chaperone-aunt, Sophia, instantly becomes more vigilant when her charge begins inquiring about Lord Alexander St. James.  Known about society as a shameless rake, naturally an innocent debutante should never go anywhere near the man.  But Alex is just as curious about the girl he met on the balcony the night before and makes some inquiries of his own which leads to an unexpected meeting where the two compare notes about each other before sharing another much more passionate kiss.

But a mystery lurks and weaves itself into Alex and Amelia's romance.  Suddenly old letters begin to surface from an unknown source... love letters from an Anna St. James to a Samuel Hathaway, written many years ago.  With the old scandal still a source of tension between the Hathaway and St. James families, the surfacing letters now add fresh fuel to the fire, escalating the need for the silver key to be found quickly.  For this key may unlock secrets that have never been told...

This was an excellent story, full of passion, romance and mystery.  I really enjoyed our main characters and liked that the focus really stayed on them throughout most of the book.  Sophia gets a little bit of a subplot, which was nice but a tad abbreviated.  I would have welcomed a bit more explanation.  One thing I really liked about this story was that Amelia and Alex genuinely liked each other and Alex really wanted to get to know her.  He found her beautiful, yes, but independent and intellectual as well.  Amelia has an inner beauty that Alex seems drawn to like a magnet.  I also enjoyed how open and honest both characters were.  No misunderstanding plot here! And it was refreshing to see Amelia believe Alex unquestionably when he explains he's really not the rake everyone takes him to be.  Shadowed by his brother's formerly wicked ways, Alex maintains the rakish facade to keep the marriage-minded ladies at bay, but after meeting Amelia, we see that he's eager to cut all ties to that facade and secretly pursue her.

I also liked how Ms. Wildes gave Amelia a "glaring imperfection" as Amelia's father had called it. Amelia suffered from asthma, which I've never seen addressed in a Regency before, but surely they suffered from it in Regency times too, right? Personally, I feel adding an element like that makes the character all the more human  and someone I can relate to even more, especially if the reader or someone you know suffers from the same affliction.

This story reminded me a lot of Maya Rodale's Negligent Chaperone books - which are excellent, by the way - because Sophia's role in this story is just that.  She sees the genuine feelings Alex and Amelia share and she's willing to bend some rules and look the other way to support them.  Sophia understands completely that the ongoing family fued has nothing to do with Alex and Amelia personally, so it was nice to see Amelia and Alex gain a stong ally.  That was cool.

I did have two small gripes with this book.  One was that we are constantly reminded about how beautiful Amelia is.  Everyone knows it, everyone talks about it and frankly, it got to be a bit tiring.  I was happy to see that Amelia wasn't at all vain about it and Alex appreciated her inner beauty right from the start so I just reminded myself of that everytime I encountered another praise for her beauty.  But really, I almost began feeling inadequate just reading it.  It's kinda like watching your best friend get all the compliments right in front of you, ya know?  The author also spent a lot of time describing hair.  And I mean A LOT!  Her golden locks, his dark, silky hair... I was getting ready to pull mine out!  But aside from these two things, this story was really a fabulous one.  

The mystery was well written and weaved into the main story of Alex and Amelia's romance perfectly and just when I thought the romance might take a back seat to the secondary story, the two stories came together and had me eager to finish the book in one sitting.  Very well done!  Ms. Wildes tells a great story and, really, she doesn't use any filler or fluff - everything relates to the story which is why she's become one of my favorites to read.  I've just started reading Luke's story, Our Wicked Mistake and Michael's story wraps up this trilogy with His Sinful Secret.  I'm so pleased to see Ms. Wildes continue to write in this genre.  For me, she is an auto-buy and after a quick check of her website I see there is more to come!  Woot!

My rating:  9 - Loved it!

The Notorious Bachelors trilogy in order...

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