Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Most Scandalous Engagement

A Most Scandalous Engagement by Gayle Callen 1216

Peter Derby owns a club that has recently come into ownership of a scandalous nude painting featuring an unknown society lady. When Elizabeth Cabot and her cousin sneak into the gallery to steal the painting Peter and his two closest friends know the subject of the painting must be one of those girls. Peter lays his money on Elizabeth while his friends each choose one of her cousins and they each set out to prove themselves right. Elizabeth had been a reckless child, always getting into scrapes, and always being rescued by Peter who lived nearby, even though his family was common while hers was part of society. Now she is the darling of the ton and intent on proving that she has left her scandalous past behind her, even while she is the one who posed for the painting. One of her suitors, Lord Thomas, threatens to tell the ton it is her in the painting if she does not marry him. To circumvent his blackmail she claims she is already engaged and enlists Peter's help by pretending to a sham engagement with him.

Peter agrees because he has harbored deeper feelings for Elizabeth for years, but always felt like she was too good for him. Now that he has his own fortune, he thinks that the two of them can finally have a future and sets out to prove to her that they would be perfect for each other. Of course they must pretend to be madly in love in front of the ton and pretend begins to become very close to truth. But Elizabeth has always fancied that she would marry William, her best friend's brother, and to keep herself from falling under Peter's spell she claims that their passionate interludes are merely practice for when she can use what he's teaching her on William. Everyone is worried that both of them are making a mistake; that Elizabeth is marrying beneath herself and that Peter will never be accepted into the ton he is marrying into, and both of them worry that the other is getting worried about these things as well and wants out. Both of them will have to be honest with the other about what they want before they can be happy.

This is the second in the scandalous series and carries on the story of the the nude portrait. The first installment was of average quality and this one was slightly better as I liked the main characters and the problems they faced more than the first, but it still had some of the same problems. Elizabeth's scandalous past is hinted at but not really shown and I couldn't help but feel a little mystified as to how a society lady would have ever posed nude for a painting. I don't know how she would have met this artist and how she would have gotten up the courage to do this and this really should have been talked about more. Unfortunately her wild behavior was a big part of her development as a character as she was working so hard to overcome her past and it was just hard to see this as we didn't really get a glimpse into said scandalous past. I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her mother as it was important and yet did not really take over they story and the secondary characters in general were well written and no overwhelming.

Peter was a more intriguing character than Elizabeth in general because he was fighting feelings of inadequacy and it's always great to read about someone who has harbored a secret longing for a long time. His attempts to make her fall in love with him were mainly physical, but I could still sense that these two had deeper feelings for each other. Their relationship progresses very naturally and quickly throughout the story and we were there every step of the way. They did know each other before the story started and so we missed out on a little bit, but I still felt like there was a good bit of development going on. Their wasn't a lot of sex per se but there was a ton of sizzling tension between these two that scorched the pages and I felt the entire book was very sexy. The mystery of the painting was not really a large part of the story because we knew from the beginning that she was the model and I liked that it was really just a part of the back round. There was the issue of Elizabeth being blackmailed into marriage and I also enjoyed how this element was carried through to the end and had a very satisfying ending.

Rating: More enjoyable than her last novel because I liked these characters better and side plots were enjoyable extras and didn't overwhelm.

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