The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal 620
Jasper James Hedges has devoted his life to the study of Greek antiquities ever since he feel in love with his older brother's wife and got her pregnant. He had hoped that she would come with him on his travels, but instead she passed the boy, Anthony, off as her husband. When the mother and father die in a tragic boating accident Jasper is left in charge of young Anthony and his sister, Sydney, but he knows he can never tell Anthony the truth. One summer, Jasper is called to London, and it is the same summer that Mariana Wyatt, the widowed Countess of Gorham, is publishing another one of her novels about the ton. To boost sales, Mariana wants the ton to believe that she and Anthony had once been lovers, even though they never have been. When she meets Anthony's uncle at a dinner party, she realizes that she has spent far too long seducing easily manipulated and controlled young men and she wants something more in her life. The two agree to a no strings attached, season long affair.
They both want to keep their affair a secret, but although they have agreed that neither will bring up family or personal business this becomes extremely difficult. Jasper desperately wants to build a relationship with his son, but can't help but muddle all of their interactions, while Mariana is being blackmailed by Rackham, a man who knows that her past is more sordid than anyone can imagine. When Rackham is murdered in his office, it comes to light that he had also been following Jasper and he can't help but wonder if it was Mariana who betrayed him in order to lessen her own debt. When a burglar breaks in and threatens Sydney, Jasper is beside himself and sends Sydney, the governess and Anthony up to the country estate where Anthony and Helen realize that they're perfect for each other. Meanwhile Jasper comes to his senses and knows that Mariana would never have betrayed him, and while Sydney might want to keep her uncle to herself, the two of them work perfectly together.
Mariana and Jasper were a simply amazing couple and they worked so well together that I knew every time they were in the same room I was going to end up happy. I liked that she had to work to keep her position in society and used this position to write sordid novels that were popular and yet frowned upon by the very people who read them. And her secret life as a mistress/ girl for hire made every other secret past life in romance novels seem rather pathetic. Jasper was great as well and I love that he was scholarly and dedicated to Greek antiquities, had a social conscience, but he wasn't merely a buff hero hiding behind his intellect- he genuinely cared about all those things. I especially loved his feelings regarding his relationship with Anthony as it was such a precarious situation and he handled it so well. The sex between them was a little flowery, but still plenty hot but I wish there had been more of it. There was a rather odd ode to anal sex, but she managed to pull it off and have it still be romantic.
There is a wonderful secondary romance between Anthony, the popular and well dressed gentleman, and the plain and proper governess. It was absolutely beautiful and having parts of the story told from their point of view made it a great counterpoint to the more mature relationship between Mariana and Jasper. Rosenthal has a very unique, wordy and flowery, way of writing that includes what I have to term lots of tangents where I found myself thinking that this had nothing to do with anything in the book. While it was nice to get the perspective of several different characters it got to be a tad much and I really wanted more from Jasper and Mariana. There was far too little time spent on their relationship and not enough time with them together, especially near the end when the two are apart for the last 50 or so pages. I also found it a little odd that the murder of the blackmailer was never solves: while I wasn't particularly excited by the plot, I still expected some closure.
Rating: I really liked these characters and I felt that Rosenthal had a great start for a romance, but that she did not really follow up on its' development.