Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter
Audrianna Kemsleigh decides to meet "Domino" at an inn outside London in the hopes that this mysterious man can clear her father's name. Lord Sebastian Summerhays has been leading the investigation into bad gunpowder that had been sent to the front and led to the slaughter of English soldiers. His brother, the Marquess of Wittonbury, had been left unable to walk because of this faulty gunpowder. Audrianna's father, Horatio, had been the last stop of the gunpowder on the way to the front so suspicion had fallen on him and he had eventually committed suicide. Sebastian and Audrianna end up meeting at the inn and when the real Domino finds them he is shocked into shooting Sebastian. Scandal breaks out and while Audrianna hopes to ride it out by hiding at her cousin at her estate, The Rarest Blooms. But the scandal is not blowing over and it is threatening Sebastian's standing in Parliament and any future hope that Audrianna's family had of weathering it through the gunpowder scandal. So Sebastian and Audrianna arrange for a marriage of convenience.
The two of them know their marriage will not be entirely accepted by society or by their families but Sebastian's money helps to appease Audrianna's family while the scandal at the inn loses steam with the marriage. Sebastian knows that continuing to investigate the gunpowder could potentially make his entire married life a disaster but he feels he has an obligation to his brother. Meanwhile, although Audrianna knows her father is innocent, she is able to understand why Sebastian is so dedicated to what he is doing. As the two of them realize that there is more to this marriage than convenience and a common goal to find out the truth behind the gunpowder, more information comes to light that the conspiracy might stretch all the way to some very high level government officials. Unfortunately the plot may go all the way to someone that both Audrianna and Sebastian hold very dear and both have to decide if the possibilities that exist in their marriage are worth risking to satisfy their desire for justice and revenge.
I really liked the very heavy writing style that Madeline Hunter uses. She goes into tremendous depth about what the characters are thinking and feeling and what is happening around them. I really enjoyed both character's immensely and this was in large part because of the great writing I mentioned earlier that really allows the reader to feel like they know both Audrianna and Sebastian. Both of these characters manage to be both self assured and very confident in their goals, yet they both know that there is so much in life they are missing. The scene where they discuss fidelity in marriage is poignant and funny all at once. And I loved the scene where Audrianna sought out Sebastian when she had said something to upset him, not necessarily to apologize but to discuss what could be done. So many great scenes between them that just showed how great they were together. There was plenty of sex in the story and although I felt it could have been fleshed out it was certainly satisfying and worked very well with the romantic development throughout the story.
There was also the seamlessly integrated and very important gunpowder plot. This was obviously an integral part of the story as it brought them together and served as a basis for many of their interactions and for some of the more emotional parts of the book. It was a much better reason for concern about a marriage's success than some of the other maneuvers that romance novel writers employ. And what made it even more enjoyable was that it remained a mystery the whole time what was really going on and I had both the romance and the discovery at the end to look forward to. It sometimes did seem like it got a little overwhelming sometimes and I would have appreciated some more scenes between Audrianna and Sebastian that didn't take place in the bedroom and didn't involve the gunpowder. There was also some greatness involving Sebastian's brother, Morgan, as he struggled with the possibility that his life might not have to be lived in a wheelchair and he fights against any changes occurring.
Rating: Very much enjoyed this book, especially the writing and the amazingly likable characters. I would have liked a little less plot taking over though.