Lady Caroline Wynn is happy to be a widow and has no intention of ever marrying again after such a disastrous marriage, but her dead husbands accusation of her being passion-less still haunt her. One night after too many drinks Nicholas, Duke of Rothay, and Derek, Earl Manderville, place on bet on which one of them is a better lover. Caroline believes that this will be a perfect way for her to discover if she truly is cold and unfeeling, and agrees to be the judge if only they will agree to complete discretion. They are both intrigued by the possibility of having this gorgeous and socially upstanding young woman in their bed and agree to her terms, with Nicholas going first. It is not long before Nicholas discovers that Caroline's history has left her scared of men and he must proceed slowly. Over the course of a week, Nicholas woos Caroline, slowly seducing her and really becoming her friend.
When he is called away early the two both head back to London but Caroline knows she can never have such a relationship with Derek. This is fine as Derek only made that wager when he discovered that Annabelle Reid, the love of his life, had gotten engaged. A practiced rake, the passionate kiss he shared with Annabelle scared him and pushed him into the arms of another woman and when Annabelle discovered this she swore him off. Now a year later he knows he made a horrible mistake and wants to win her back. He and Caroline agree to help each other, with Caroline talking to Annabelle about the importance of love in marriage, and Derek pretending to continue with the wager to make Nicholas jealous and come to his senses. When Caroline's cousin-in-law threatens to expose their wager, all three of her friends will have to come to aid in order for all of them to end up in love.
I always find it a little odd when an author tries to push two romances into one novel, but Wildes does a pretty good job of it and I did not feel like either romance was particularly lacking. We got a great back story on all of them and enough insight into what all of them were thinking and feeling throughout the book. They were all great characters and the romances were done with a deft hand. The book was supposed to be an erotica style romance and while there was certainly plenty of sex, there was not as much as I would have expected and I really did not find it particularly exciting. Perhaps the best part of this book was Annabelle, and to a lesser extent Caroline, coming to turns with their loved one's very promiscuous past. A lot of romance novel heroes are former rakes and it is just kind of brushed aside, but in this book it is truly something that they have to work through and come to terms with.
Derek and Nicholas also had to come to grips with their past and there were times I got a little tired of their excuses for not getting married or wanting to settle down. The book was rather unexciting with no fun little conversations between them, and I couldn't help but feel like the whole thing had some sort of pall over it as all four of them were working through some pretty tough issues of their own. I also would have preferred some more time with Annabelle and Derek as their falling in love had happened prior to the book beginning, and even Caroline and Nicholas falling in love was a little glossed over during their week together. There was a brief little problem with her cousin-in-law that was really interesting and for once I actually found myself wishing there was a little bit more of it. It was very well done, and rather predictable, but definitely did not get in the way of the romances.
Rating: Two interesting romances with four likable characters in a book I liked, but did not really find anything particularly special about.