The Earl's Forbidden Ward by Bronwyn Scott 610
Peyton Ramsden, Earl of Dursley, is enjoying his life of bachelorhood when a supervisor reveals that the Branscombe sisters will be
coming to London and someone needs to watch over them. Their father had been a diplomat who had turned to spying by compiling a list of Russian dissenters before dying. The British government needs this list and unfortunately the Russians are also trying to get ahold of this list. The solution is obviously to write a fake codicil to Mr. Branscombe's will that leaves Peyton as guardian to the four siblings, including the eldest- the very beautiful and headstrong Tessa. Tessa is not exactly happy at this turn of events but she recognizes that having an Earl to help introduce her and her family into society could be a great way of finding great husbands for her siblings when the time comes. She can't help but think that Peyton has an ulterior motive for staying so close to her and her siblings but she does not mind because someone has been breaking into her house.
Peyton knows that their are Russians in London looking for this list but it takes awhile for each of them to realize that they can confide in the other. In the meantime, Tessa certainly enjoys the feeling of security she gets whenever she is in Peyton's arms and she acknowledges that it is nice to finally put some responsibility on another's shoulders instead of constantly worrying. The Russians start putting more and more pressure on Tessa, but it takes a long time before either Tessa or Peyton are willing to trust each other with information they might have. However, Peyton is still wary of telling Tessa that his guardianship is nothing but a ruse because it is apparent to him that he needs Tessa in his life and he worries that she might push him out of her life. When the Russians finally make their move, it is Tessa who has to go to Peyton's rescue, but even then she will have to decide if she can forgive him for his deception or if she can risk losing the man she is in love with.
I really liked that Tessa was headstrong and stubborn and so protective of her family because it was really just a mirror image of Peyton's own protective feelings for those around him. Instead of having them constantly arguing about it or Peyton running roughshod over Tessa, they really work together and each of them can acknowledge that they can take care of their dependents better when they work together. Each of them is dedicated to protecting those they feel need protection and it comes across so well in this book because it serves as a great example of how they are so good for each other. They each serve to keep the other grounded and bring out the best in the other and I really liked reading about the lengths they were each willing to go to keep the other safe. There was a large age difference between the two of them but almost nothing is made of it in this book, or really any mention of how odd it would be for an earl to marry his supposed ward and I think it would have lent a nice touch.
There was a decent amount of sex in the novel, but it was not very descriptive or involved; it kind of cut off in the middle and then picked up when it was all over so I would have appreciated some more steam. I normally don't like the spy plots, but I did enjoy this one, perhaps because it did not really involve either of them having to actually do any spying. This plot really kept the two of them working together and getting to know each other throughout the book and they were working toward a common goal even if they didn't know it until later in the book. The villains in the book were also nicely written and I especially liked that there were small portions that were told from their point of view. None of the confusions in the book were dragged on too long as eventually Peyton did tell Tessa the truth and it did not even take her long to realize that she should forgive him which was nice as I hate when misunderstandings drag on so long they become the entire book.
Rating: Overall a very interesting book with a great relationship between the characters. Could have used a little more steam though.