The new Kelly Bowen book is here! I’m such a Bowen fangirl!
This is the third book in the Season for Scandal series, and it was worth the wait. Ms Bowen writes some of the best historical romance I’ve read in a long time. I’ve read all of her books now, and they’re all well written with characters that I enjoy. And of course, my romance loving soul is warmed by the way she is able to meld the sizzle of the attraction with the intimacy that is more than just sex. I’ve said it before in my other reviews – her heroines are no simpering missish women and the heroes are not one-dimensional alpha males.
In this book, the heroine is Lady Angelique Archer. After the death of her parents, she has become the responsible one of the family since her brother, the new Marquess of Hutton, is useless. The family is nearly penniless but the new marquess is still living large drinking and chasing women. She has sold most of their household possessions in order to pay the bills and keep her younger twin brothers in school. She never married in her one disastrous season, earning the nickname “The Marble Maiden” due to her lack of small talk skills and inability to dance. In desperation, she’s had to turn to gambling to earn some money – something she does with relative ease thanks to her brilliant mind (another reason she was considered strange).
Her gambling takes her to the establishment of Alexander Lavoie, who was introduced in the first book of the series. Alex is a partner in Chegarre and Associates with Ivory Moore (now the Duchess of Alderidge) – they are the people who make scandal disappear for a price. His past is rather shadowy, and rumour has it that he was either a spy or an assassin. At any rate, he’s rakishly handsome, superbly charming and intelligent. He has taken notice of Angelique in his club despite her attempts to remain low key – he can tell she isn’t there for the thrill, or to be naughty. Then one night he has to intervene on her behalf when one of the men who lost money to her begins to get angry with her. This encounter between the two of them is palpable with heat and he needs to find out more about her. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out she’s in dire straits and recognizing her mathematical skills, he offers her a job as a dealer for the vingt-et-un table. She would be masked, of course, to keep her identity a secret from the ton.
At first, Angelique is determined to refuse, but after her brother absconds with all her winnings, she has no choice but to accept Alex’s offer. Things turn from mutual attraction to sizzling sexual tension, and even Ivory can see that Alex is smitten, taking great pleasure in teasing him about it. Then Angelique’s brother is arrested for murder, and turning to Chegarre and Associates, she discovers Alex’s involvement with that. With his help, they start to unravel what happened to her family’s fortune and uncover several skeletons in the closet that shake Angelique to the core.
I really liked this couple. Alex admires Angelique’s intelligence as well as her beauty, falling in love with her before he realizes it. The men in her life hadn’t been trustworthy, her brother least of all, so it does take awhile for her to learn that Alex is a good man behind the suave facade. He proves to be fiercely protective, and would do anything to help her even if she thought she wasn’t worthy of it. Over time, her confidence is rebuilt with his attention and the knowledge that her mind isn’t the detriment she previously believed.
“When she stood in front of that mirror, with a man who had never treated her as anything less than his equal, a man to whom she’d revealed more of her true self than she’d ever done with any other, she had witnessed just how much he had wanted her. And whether he knew it or not, Alexander Lavoie had gifted Angelique with a knowledge that she hadn’t possessed when she’d first here tonight. She finally understood beauty and the power that came with it. And she finally understood that it had nothing to do with how she looked.”
It was an enjoyable read to see these two people find each other and it was one of those books I was sorry to come to the end of. I’m definitely reading this one again.
My only quibble would be that there was no epilogue because I wanted to read more. Well, that and the fact the title is kind of misleading – Alex isn’t a Duke, and the dukes in the book have little to do with the story. Overall, I love the way Ms Bowen weaves the mystery and intrigue with the steamy romance!