A Wild Pursuit by Eloisa James
A Wild Pursuit follows the antics of ... 3, 4... I don't know how many, different couples. Our setting is the house of the widowed Lady Esme Rawling who is her final month of confinement. An odd setting for a house party but she is indeed joined by her aunt Arebella, her lover, and several other parties. Our "main" couple, the one discussed on the back blurb, is Lady Beatrix Lennox and Mr. Stephen Fairfax-Lacey. Twenty-three year old Beatrix, Bea, is the disgraced daughter of a duke who had been kicked out of her father's house, and all respectable ton functions, after being found in a compromising position. Unlike other "compromising" positions this one was indeed compromising as our heroine is far from a virgin. She decks herself out in face paints, low cut and see through gowns and throws seductive glances at every man in her path. Stephen is 43 year-old member of the House of Commons whose dedication to the working man, despite being a Tory, has earned him a reputation as a completely respectable member of society as he is the heir to another dukedom. Upon first meeting Bea deems Stephen a "puritan" and he believes she is merely pretending to be a wanton and is hiding something he desperately wants to uncover. Both are wildly attracted to each other.
Our other characters include Esme, who is desperately trying to regain respectability through any means necessary, and the appearance of her lover, disguised as her estates gardner, is not helping matters. Neither is the fact that she is not 100% sure if Sebastian, Marquess of Bonnington, or her deceased husband Miles, is the father. And of course there is the fact that her husband died in a tuffle with Sebastian when he had snuck into Esme's bedchamber for a little tete-a-tete. They are joined by Lady Helene Godwin who had been kicked out her husband, Rees Earl of Godwin's, house and replaced by an opera singer in her husband's bed, mere months after their Gretna Green elopment. In an attempt to make her husband jealous she begins a fake affair with Stephen, but alas her husband has little reaction except to once again refuse her pleas for a divorce. And in a last ditch effort to keep Sebastian away from her, and protect her respectability, Esme claims to be engaged to Stephen. Neither the supposed affair or the supposed engagement make Bea happy, nor do Stephen's demands that she woo him instead of seduce him.
The most notable aspect of this book was the sheer amount of characters and "romances" involved. We got to read the story from the point of view of everyone involved and it certainly took skill on the part of Eloisa James that she was able to sympathetically portray not only our six heroes and heroines, but also different family members as well. But a 380 page book doesn't have room for 3 different romances and it shows. I was definitely left wishing I had learned more about Bea and Stephen and that their romance could have used quite a bit more fleshing out, especially in the bedroom. Both Esme and Sebastian and Helene and Rees' stories are obviously only partly explored in this book. There are numerous references to events that have happened in the past, presumably in previous books, and they will be continued in other books. While she certainly does a great job of providing enough back story that we are not left in the dark about events we haven't read about, it would have been nice to have read a whole romance from beginning to end. It was almost like she couldn't provide all the great things in a romance novel in one cople; we had sex between Sebastian and Esme, angst between Helene and Rees, and actual getting to know you and fall in love between Bea and Stephen. I also found it odd that so little mention was given to the 20 year age difference between Stephen and Bea except for him occasionally and briefly complaining about his age.
None of the couples provided much steam, although their bedroom antics were certainly laughable. My favorite is a scene where Helene throws herself at Stephen only to have both of them realize it's not what either of them want. A few allusion filled scenes between Sebastian and Esme are cut short before anything remotely exciting happens while the one (yes one) scene between Bea and Stephen is short, riddled with just plain odd happenings and is far from being steamy. I did like the way the author portrayed the relationship between Esme and her new son, William; she is overprotective after her younger brother died shortly after birth, and between Esme and her severely disapproving mother. And it was nice to read about so many fun women, with only a little in common, getting along so well and helping each other out, including Lady Bonnington reforming her prissish ways to help Esme through labor. Unfortunately Eloisa saved the best for the very end when both Bea and Esme decide it's time to declare their love and the epilogues were done very well.
Rating: I would have liked more of Bea and Stephen, less information from other romance novels and less setting up of her upcoming novels. I have given out quite a few 2 hearts recently and this isn't anywhere near as good as most of them.