A Rake's Guide to Seduction by Caroline Linden
This is the third addition to the Reece family romances and our heroine is Celia Reece, younger half- sister to twins Marcus, the Duke of Exeter, and David. Celia is out for her first season and she quickly catches the attention of several eligible young men, and one exceedingly un-eligible man. Anthony Hamilton has been a friend of the Reece family since childhood when he parted ways with his father, the Duke of Lynley. Everyone believes Anthony to be a bastard and he learned quickly to at least appear not to care what anyone else thinks about him. He has courted a reputation as a rake and a gambler and Celia should be terrified him. However one outing on a balcony shows Anthony that with the right incentive he could come to care about someone. He asks Marcus for permission to court Celia but it is already to late and Celia marries Bertram, heir to the Duke of Lansborough. Celia fancies herself in love with Bertie but soon into their marriage she realizes she has made an enormous mistake as Bertie is not who she had thought him to be. Three years later Bertie dies and Celia's mother, Rosalind, comes and takes her back to the family homestead.
Rosalind notices that Celia is very downcast and decides to host a month long house party to get her daughter's spirits up. David invites Anthony and he only decides at the last minute to attend. Celia is no longer the carefree, blushing young woman he remembers. She now has a depth and a level of experience that makes her even more attractive to him. He decides to raise her spirits by sending her annonymous love letters and while at first she is wary, they achieve his desired intentions and Celia guesses the identity of her secret admirer. When she confronts him the two end up in a very compromising position in the library in front of her brothers and several house guests. Celia knows she needs to time to decide if she is ready for another marriage; she had been so sure that Bertie was the one for her and she does not want to make the same mistake. Meanwhile Anthony is worried that he can never be good enough for Celia as there are rumors circulating throughout the ton about his black nature. Celia knows not to believe the gossip but there is someone else who will do anything to keep Celia and Anthony apart.
I rarely get in to series books where past characters show up but from the beginning I knew that I would want to read all the books about the Reece family. I am certainly glad I did as all three of them, and their chosen spouses are very fun and all three books are very well written. This book was no exception in either case. Linden also did a wonderful job balancing Celia's first marriage: Bertie was not a villian but neither was he a loving dead husband. He was a very flawed man and Celia recognized these flaws and her own fault in not recognizing them sooner. Her reflections on her misguided actions in betrothing herself too quickly to her first love were very well done and quite realistic. Anthony is a scandalous rake like many heroines but I liked the backstory involving his family life that made his issues so much "real" than a lot of other romance novel hero complaints. I also really liked how they were really destined for each other but fate stood in their way until together they made a life for themselves possible.
And of course Linden is great at writing inner dialogue and some very amazing emotional scenes in her book. I LOVED the scene where Anthony went to ask Exeter for permission to court Celia only to discover that she was already betrothed to another. It was so poignant and full of just such overwhelming emotions and really gave great insight into Anthony's feelings for Celia. As usual Linden worked some great sex into the story, although it was rather similar to her other books, and I wish there had been more of it.There was also a nice little side romance between Rosalind and the Earl of Warfield, a distant relative of Anthony's, that was very underdeveloped but still very fun to read about. The ending was a tad weird when Celia is kidnapped by a man who had wanted her to marry him as it was not at all developed in the rest of the story and while not completely coming out of left field still felt rather random. It was also wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly for my taste.
Rating: I very much enjoyed this book. It was better than David's story because it definitely had more of the emotion I was looking for. Just did not quite sparkle.