When Lily Wellstone heads to the Bitterward Estate to comfort her widowed friend Eugenia she certainly does not have romance in mind. In fact the playful but level-headed Lily is amused to no end when, en route, a gypsy gifts her with a beautiful medallion, claiming it will ensnare the romantic desires of a stranger.
But Fate has other plans in the form of Eugenia's ruggedly handsome brother, the Duke of Mountjoy. One day at Bitterward and Lily can't deny the sizzling attraction between her and the roguish duke. Nothing can come of it, of course. She's not looking for entanglements and he's practically engaged. But whether it's her outgoing nature and the duke's outlandish ways sparking off one another; or the mysterious gypsy medallion working "magic"-hearts are stirring in the most unexpected and wicked ways...
I love Carolyn Jewel's romances and Not Wicked Enough is just as good as her others. This book was different and very sexy.
The wealthy and unmarried, Miss Lily Wellstone is an original. Independent, adventurous, sexy and charismatic, she is her own woman. She knows what she wants. Although never married, if she wants a lover, so be it. While visiting her dear friend Eugenia, she meets Eugenia's brother, the Duke of Mountjoy (an apt name) - definitely lover material. Although he's virtually engaged to another, the two cannot deny the irresistible attraction they have towards one another and before long they can't keep their hands off each other. Coincidence that the Duke just happens to find her wherever she is in the middle of the night while exploring his estate? Both go into a torrid affair with a 'no strings' attached attitude. A secret fling while Lily visits his home for a few weeks.
On the surface, they are perfectly civil and polite to one another, yet in private their clandestine series of meetings in the middle of the night (Lily remains awake most nights, a night owl, sleeping during the day) scorch up the pages of this book. Lily is just as adventurous when it comes to sex as she is in all other matters and Mountjoy is her match. To say the least they have fun together, but the fact that Lily intends to leave and go back to her own home eventually is always hanging over their heads. It can't just stop there! I scratched me head over this plot point. Why did it take two extremely intelligent people so long to figure out what was so obvious to the reader? Neither is married, both are wealthy, what's the obstacle, apart from Lily repeating saying she doesn't want to get married because she wants to remain true to her fiance who died years before. They are meant to be together forever. It's obvious. Meanwhile as things heat up, we find out that Lily has not always been so daring, in fact, she has been a recluse for a good part of her life. She has not always been this way, and as the story unfolds we uncover her past and it's implications in regard to her future.
The Duke also has an interesting back-story. Coming into his title unexpectedly ten years earlier, he lived and worked on a farm with his siblings, having no idea he would become a duke. His origins are humble, until one day a solicitor informs him that he has inherited the title from a distant cousin. Mountjoy is a simple hardworking man with simple tastes - and no interest in clothes. This is an ongoing sore point with Lily who is herself a clothes horse. Always up on the latest fashions and very concerned about her appearance she cannot abide how poorly tailored his clothes are. She'd make a good valet for him - he even dreams of her as his valet, referring to her as just "Wellstone" in his dreams - and soon in real life. Much to his "real" valet's delight, Lily convinces Mountjoy to see a good tailor, picking out the materials herself and gradually has him outfitted worthy of a duke. The difference is amazing! Lily is becoming more and more important to him in his life. As the two of them carry on their affair, will either one of them be able to call it off and end it eventually? Does he still intend to marry his neighbor or is Lily looking more and more like duchess material to him?
As much as I enjoyed this book quite a bit, Lily is a cool customer and I never quite felt like she was a real person, she seemed almost too perfect, beautiful and accomplished - at everything. I pictured a mannequin more than a hot blooded woman, although some parts were very hot between them. Mountjoy was almost like two different men, his original pre-duke self, an earthy lover with sensual wants and desires and then his ducal persona. All business, dedicated to the running of the estate, but perhaps to the point where he ignored the fact his widowed sister was wasting away and needed more attention. It took Lily to point out his sister's condition, otherwise he would have remained clueless.
This was a great story, sexy and fun but with some underlining seriousness to the tale as well. There is a running theme of self denial throughout this story. A quote I liked was apt from Lily's point of view which was right on the money and summed it up for everyone:
Self denial, she'd found, was the unfailing precursor to overindulgence in the very thing one sought to avoid.If you're already a Carolyn Jewel fan, this is another winner to add to the collection. If you haven't tried her yet, do so. She writes some of the best historical romances out there. Well researched and written with unusual plot twists. Different types of heroines and heroes, not your average run of the mill story. There's always something a bit intriguing about her books, sometimes even supernatural. Here it's the gypsy medallion - did it throw Lily and the Duke together or not? Give this a try and work your way through her back list as well, you won't be sorry!