Saturday, February 19, 2011
Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, has a problem: he needs to marry and produce an heir to the title. All Jasper wants is to find a lady who will put up with him long enough to wed so he can retreat to his life of debauchery - a life that keeps the haunting memories of his past at bay. Knowing that Jasper is under pressure to marry, Melisande Flemming grasps her fate with both hands and volunteers to wed him. Although Jasper is initially only interested in producing an heir, he soon becomes entranced by his wife - prim and proper by day, wanton by night - and vows to learn her secrets.
Melissande, however, is determined to keep her husband at a distance. She has loved, and lost, before, and will do anything to keep him from learning her terrible weakness: she's secretly been in love with him for years. But to her chagrin, her husband pursues her, wooing her as if she were a paramour, not his lady wife. As Melissande and Jasper embark on a passionate game of cat and mouse, secrets from the past begin to resurface... threatening to tear them asunder.
I loved this book, and I'm realizing I'm loving this Legend of the Four Soldiers Series even more than her last Prince Series! This series follows the paths of four soldiers that experienced a horrible massacre of their battalion while in the Colonies during the French and Indian War near Quebec. They are convinced that there was a traitor in their midst, an officer among them that set a trap for money, selling secrets of their location. Hundreds of men were killed and those that were captured were scarred for life due to the horrifying and unspeakable practices committed against them. No Geneva Convention back in those days!
We previously met Jasper, Viscount Vale in the first book, To Taste Temptation, and I liked him instantly there. Here he's a much more complex man and I loved him! Jasper appears to live the good life - an aristocrat with a title, he seems to have everything - a lavish townhouse, carriage, loads of friends, respected by his peers, but all is not right with him. There is more to him than meets the eye. He, like the other soldiers that experienced the horrible slaughter and capture at the massacre of Spinners Falls in the Colonies six years earlier, is carrying the burden of guilt. An officer of the troop, the Indians that captured them tortured and killed many, yet left Jasper untouched. He was forced to watch, and anytime he flinched or showed any emotion, they would inflict even more horrible mutilations to his men. Jasper may not show any outward scars from the ordeal, but inside he has many.
Now Jasper is intent on getting on with his life and marrying and producing heirs to his title. He'd like to forget Spinners Falls - but he can't. He already lost one fiancee in To Tempt Temptation, and as we come upon him here in To Seduce a Sinner, he's just been jilted at the altar by another! Melissande Fleming, who was the best friend of our heroine in Temptation takes it upon herself to snatch Jasper up before he asks someone else to marry him! Melissande has always been a quiet, reserved, mousy brown wren of a young women. Jilted by a fiance ten years earlier, she is now a spinster living with her brother and his wife. She wants a life of her own and she takes the bull by the horns and offers herself to Jasper, who she has secretly loved for years.
Jasper is so surprised by the proposition from Melissande - he accepts! They go through the proper motions, he visits her brother, talk settlements, et cetera, et cetera and voila - they marry! Jasper has no idea that Melissande secretly loves him, he thinks of this as a marriage of convenience although the more time he spends with Melissande, the more he realizes there's more to her than meets the eye as well! Unfortunately, their wedding night is nothing short of disappointment to Melissande. She's expecting the moon and stars and is heady with anticipation and well... Jasper is far from the lover she expected. But, that does not stop her from setting things to rights. She is a determined young woman and she is not going to spend the rest of her days in a loveless marriage - she will seduce him!
Meanwhile, he sort of has the same idea in mind. He's falling for his new little wife and thinks she's some prim and proper spinster that needs seducing as well! I loved it! At the same time, Melissande is interested in learning all there is about her new husband and stumbles upon a secret of his that no one knows about that gives her a clue to his guilt and suffering in regard to Spinners Falls. She hates to think of him carrying such a burden and wants to help - and help she does! She becomes an ideal wife and they learn to love each other. It was a pleasure to experience the ups and downs of their brand new relationship, while also following the progression of who was the traitor that led to the massacre and death of his best friend. I grew to really admire both Melissande and Jasper. Basically, they got under my skin and I didn't want to say good bye to them at the end of the book! One part of the book I loved that showed how wonderful Jasper is towards his "Lady Wife" (as he calls her) was when they met up with her former fiance - priceless moment - I felt like clapping! I felt it cemented things between them, both were glad about who they married by then.
There were a few side characters I enjoyed that are fleshed out and brought to life. I liked Jasper's valet particularly and Melissande's new lady's maid. A nice little side story going there. We meet the mysterious and sad Mrs. Fitzwilliam, the mistress of the Duke of Lister who has two bastard children by him. Melissande forms a friendship with her. We also meet our "3rd" soldier who will figure in the next book in the series.
This was a delightful book, full of romance, a good mystery, some red herrings and a happy ending! Jasper's tale, "laughing Jack" parallels the fairy tale that is told at the beginning of each chapter. The laughing man who is really something else entirely beneath that carefree exterior. Melissande, the little nobody who asks him to marry her becomes a surprising jewel of a wife, nothing as he expected. Both are hiding their true selves from each other. A real keeper! I love the settings, part of this was in Scotland where they travel to and mostly London, all during Georgian late 18th century. The background and descriptions are right on, as well as the language - nothing jarring - all first rate and well researched. Elizabeth Hoyt is an auto buy for me from now on, I haven't been disappointed by anything I've read of hers - a worthwhile and exceptional romance author you can count on!