Suddenly by Candace Camp
When Charity Emerson believes that Simon "Devil" Dure is about to offer for her sister Serena, she quickly proposes marriage to him herself. Her sister is in love with another man and Charity wants Serena to be happy. After laying out all the reasons she believes they will suit, he is still skeptical: she is young and he is worried that she will expect him to fall in love with her eventually. Both their families are excited that the two have made such a good match, and as Charity and Simon spend more time together they discover that there are definitely some aspects of marriage they are going to very much enjoy. Their happiness is marred when Charity begins to receive notes warning her to stay away from Simon because he murdered his older brother and his wife, who actually died in childbirth. Simon has lived with these rumors for years, but he can't help but be pleased that Charity inherently knows that Simon would never harm any person without sufficient cause. He also likes her spunk, her ability to stand up for herself, and her tendency to stand up for him whenever he is maligned.
Simon warns Charity away from a man named, Farraday Reed, who has shown himself to Charity to be nothing but honest, decent, helpful. Simon knows that Reed is not who he portrays himself to be. Years ago he ran off with Simon's sister, Venice, raped her, and tried to force her to marry him. At first Charity believes that Reed is a nice man and that he can help her discover who is behind the notes against Simon. When Simon finds out that she has been spending time with Reed, he is furious, but it is Venice who eventually tells her the truth. Unfortunately soon afterwords Reed is killed and Simon is the prime suspect because he had been seen arguing with Reed. Even though Simon calls off their engagement to save her, Charity knows that she needs Simon in her life as she believes she is already falling in love with him. She seduces him, marries him, and sets out to show him that they can have a wonderful life together. But rumors of Reed's death still haunt the couple wherever they go and Charity is determined that she will prove the man she loves is innocent. But someone is out there, trying to destroy their happiness, and when Charity is threatened, Simon must go rescue the woman he loves.
Charity was a great heroine. I loved that she went in their and proposed to him at the beginning to save her sister and it wasn't completely noble as she admitted that she wanted to help her sister, but she also wouldn't mind the benefits that came with being a Duchess. She proves herself throughout the book to be self sufficient, incredibly valiant in her struggles to get what she wants, and loyal to those she loves and is close to. And she manages to do all this without being "sassy" or "feisty" or any of those other adjectives that too often describe romance novel heroines. Simon is, like most heroes, wary of marriage, but he genuinely believes that he is incapable of love. I like that the story did not obsess over this aspect of his character, but just moved on while Charity slowly and methodically tore down the walls around his heart. I was rather surprised by the sex in the story as I don't remember Camp being so steamy, but, although there weren't a lot of them, the sex scenes that were there were quite good and since these two were so attracted to each other it made their relationship more believable and enjoyable.
The mystery involving Reed's death and who sent the notes is not exactly that big a mystery as it was fairly obvious that there was one person throughout the story who did not want Simon to be happy in his new marriage. I thought having this character be the villain was an interesting choice and, while not exactly completely new, was not quite the road most travelled. It was also nice in that it added to the romance without interfering, and lead to a nice, quickly resolved little kidnap plot at the end. What was most frustrating was the amount of time Simon waited before telling Charity the truth about Reed. Surely he knew that she would not just blindly follow orders and stop seeing him just on his say so. I understood why he felt like he could not, but it did get annoying to read about these arguments between them that could have been prevented if Simon would just have told Charity. Shout out to a great quote: Charity's sister Serena tells Serena that when she marries the reverend she's in love with, she looks forward to "be able to... commune with him in rightful solitude." Hilarious!
Rating: Really enjoyed this book, especially Charity who is such an amazing heroine! Good steam, good side plot, and only a little annoyingness. Pardon the picture. The only one I could find with my cover.