Royal's Bride by Kat Martin 215
Royal Dewar promises his father on his death bed that he will restore the family fortunes by marrying Jocelyn Caulfield. Over the next year Royal learns that his father had been duped by a professional con artist into making several bad investments and Royal is determined to recoup these loses. But first he must make arrangements for his wedding. Lily Moran is Jocelyn's cousin and she is sent ahead to make Bransford Castle inhabitable and from the beginning both Lily and Royal know that there is something between them, but the two know that nothing can come of their connection. Jocelyn is spoiled and used to holding on to everyone's attention so he is frustrated when her fiance seems like he could not care less about her. She knows that Christopher Barclay will not turn her down and she begins an affair with him. Even knowing that her cousin is cheating on Royal and has no intention of ever remaining faithful to him, Lily believes that the best thing for everyone is for Royal to marry Jocelyn because he needs the money.
However Royal still wants to find out what happened to his father's money and he enlists the help of Lily's Uncle Jack. Together they come up with a scheme to trick the con artist, Preston Loomis, out of the money that he stole and it involves Lily pretending to be the Gypsy fortune teller Tyesa. The scheme means Lily and Royal spending more and more time together and it is not long before they give in to their passion. When they are discovered by Jocelyn, Lily is kicked out of the Caulfield home, and Royal resigns himself to a loveless marriage. Luckily the scheme to get Loomis to give up his money works and Royal does get some of the money back, but realizing that he has been had Loomis vows revenge on those who tricked him. Meanwhile Jocelyn is coming to realize that Christopher is not merely a quick affair for her, but that she is coming to love him. When Loomis finally takes his revenge Lily and Royal are both kidnapped and together they must figure out a way to escape alive and hope that at the end of it they can always be together.
Royal and Lily were simply perfect for each other and I was completely drawn into their romance from their beginning. I love the idea that they were in love but duty kept them apart and it makes from very great emotion and angst. The characters spend a great deal of time thinking on each other and going over the reasons that they can't be together and I loved it. It was almost a little Cinder-ella esque with Lily being the poor relation bordering on servant. Lily's past isn't quite on the up and up and Royal is so great; taking it in, but completely accepting of Lily and the person she is. There are a couple of arguments between the two and they were so real and packed with emotion. Luckily it was not all longing glances as the two of them did manage to steam up the pages quite a bit, and there was even a scene between Jocelyn and Christopher, and they were very hot, very emotional, and very fun. However one sexy scene after the two of them have been beaten up and kidnapped was a little off putting for me.
Jocelyn was a very well nuanced character as it was obvious that she was spoiled and selfish, and while her actions certainly seem reprehensible, I could not help but empathize with her plight and I was very much pulling for her to come out on top. Very skillful on Martin's part to have a half- villain who isn't evil, but certainly requires a deft hand to make likable. In addition I really enjoyed the plot involving the stolen money because it was an integral part of the story, it served to bring the characters closer together, and (SPOILER!) it made the happy ending at the end more realistic than Royal just deciding he didn't need money after all. The kidnapping was certainly intriguing and although I knew they'd come out on top in the end I still found myself excited. It was resolved quickly enough, it didn't drag out but it wasn't wrapped up neatly in two pages either- a perfect compromise. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series featuring Royal's brother, Reese (Reese's Bride: review coming soon).
Rating: Very enjoyable book with great characters, great romance, and a great little mystery side plot. Highly recommended.