To Romance a Charming Rogue by Nicole Jordan
Years ago Eleanor Pierce broke off her engagement to Damon Stafford, Viscount Wrexham when she say him taking a carriage ride with his supposed former mistress. However she is unaware that Damon purposely created a situation he knew would cause Eleanor to break off their engagement when he realizes she expects her husband to love her. He is, of course, unable to return any loving feelings because he has shut himself off emotionally from other people ever since his twin brother died at sixteen of consumption and his parents both died in a tragic boating accident a few months later. He ran away to Italy, supposedly on a grand tour, but was actually there to open a sanitorium for those suffering from consumption. When he arrives back in England he discovers Eleanor engaged in a very promising courtship with Prince Lazarra from Italy and is determined to end their relationship through any means necessary and has no problem taking advantage of the overwhelming attraction between the two of them.
When Eleanor and Damon realize that Prince Lazarra's life is being threatened Damon accompanies them on their outings until a freak accident leads to Damon compromising Eleanor and being "forced" to marry her. Nobody is thrilled at this prospect except Damon who is still determined to guard his heart from Eleanor but is happy that at least her relationship with Lazarra is at an end. All the characters retreat to Eleanor's aunt's country estate for a house party where the "accident's" come to an abrupt end but the Bow Street Runners apparently continue their investigation- off scene. Meanwhile Eleanor engages the advice of a famous courtesan on how to win her husband's affections. She strings him along for awhile but ultimately fails in holding him off for long- as she is of course immensely attracted to him. I imagine our "climax" is supposed to be the juxtaposition of finding out the perpetrator of the attempts on Lazarra's life and the final confrontation between Eleanor and Damon over (the pathetic excuses on) why he refuses to give her his heart.
Like other Nicole Jordan books I have read, this one is crazy steamy- throughout the entire book we are titillated and briefly teased before consummation and it does not really let up for much of the book.Some of the most bizarre and, to be frank, poorly thought out and written, prose I have read. I dog-eared the pages where unbelievably unintentionally funny dialogue takes place, but had to stop halfway through as nearly every other page was bent. Favorites include; "My loins are full and aching for you," which is not at all sexy, and her assertion that she is saving herself until marriage which struck me as odd as all well-bred females in those days were supposed to do that. In addition the completely odd side-plot of attacks on Lazarra's life was ridiculous. It was not all that exciting to begin with as we barely cared for this character, but it did serve as an excuse for Damon to butt into Eleanor's life. But then it is dropped for nearly 150 pages until we discover that people have been covertly investigating and have discovered the (unsurprising) villian.
I have never been able to understand the immense appeal that "witty banter" holds for romance novel readers- at least I assume there is immense appeal seeing as how every romance novel is chock full of it. This one has enough for a dozen novels or more, and what is even more odd is that the characters actually acknowledge how much they like "sparring" with each other- referring to it as exhilarating. While I admit little jokey talk can be fun- if that is the only way two people ever seem to talk to each other it gets a little old and is certainly difficult to understand how they can even contemplate a life together. And unfortunately there is very little development of the romance between these characters so the author seems to revert to the romance novel staple (of poorly thought out books) that she JUST IS in love with him, which she realizes after much good sexin' of course, and he can't live without her vitality and zest for life.
Rating: Good sex does not make up for poorly written characters, dialogue, and ridiculous side-plot. I barely managed to keep myself from putting it down 200 pages (out of 400) in.