The second book in the Jaded Gentleman series features Ashe Blackwell, who was one of the men held captive in India and made a narrow escape with other countrymen with a stockpile of costly jewels. In India he fell in love with a native Indian woman who was killed for their relationship and he has spent his time back in England trying to lose himself in passion with every woman of the evening. This has not gone unnoticed by his grandfather who decides to take matters into his own hands by hiring a chaperone to look after Ashe and ensure he behaves for the entire season or he will leave the entire family fortune to Ashe's cousin, Yardley. Caroline Townsend is the granddaughter of a wealthy businessman but when she was cut out of the will she was left to fend on the charity of family members. She leaps on the chance to come to England to earn some money to start her college for young women.
She and Ashe do not get out on the best foot as he is mad about having to have a chaperone and she sees him as spoiled rake with no substance. He is not worried as he thinks that the ton will chew her up and spit her out but is stunned, and admiring, when she manages to hold her own and then some against all the dragons. She wants to keep her eye on him but there are times when she can't and she wants to know more about what he is hiding from her. He tries to get his friends to distract her, but instead ends up jealous of them and she realizes that it might be worth giving up her dream of a woman's college in order to be close with Ashe. He is convinced that he can keep things between them only on the physical level, but it is so much more for her as she is in love with Ashe. By the time Ashe discovers how much Caroline means to him it may be too late and he has to rush to prove to her that he does love her.
I was disappointed with Revenge Wears Rubies, the first book in this series, but was glad that Renee Bernard has gotten back on track with this one. Neither Caroline nor Ashe was precisely a mold breaker in the romance novel department but I felt like Caroline was definitely the more likable of the two. Her past and her secrets made for a really interesting character that I was rooting for the entire time. I wanted her to find a man who could love her and respect her for all that she had overcome and through founding the female college. Her forthrightness made her a darling of the ton and yet her inability to just try to get along with everyone rather annoyed me. She and Ashe spent far too much of the book bickering and basically not getting along. He was not as remarkable as she was; although he did have the dark past, I didn't feel like a rake who slept around and had a somewhat sad past, was exciting in a romance.
The book is very sensual and even when they are not having sex one, or both of them, are thinking about it, and there is lots of talk about how attracted they are to each other and lots of body parts are coarsely mentioned quite a bit. There was a lot of sex between them, mostly crammed into the last half of the book, and overall I really enjoyed it. I really liked that it meant that Caroline was taking a large risk with her future and yet her emotions for Ashe were so deep that she was eager to risk it. That was my main problem with the book; despite her being loads better than him it was her who fell in love with her faster and her who recognized her feelings for him. The ending was rather abrupt, which made sense considering the book was only 270 pages, and I wanted more from Ashe to prove his love. Previous characters made appearances and of course Caroline and Haley became the best of friends.
Rating: I really enjoyed Caroline but I wish that Ashe had been a more developed character and that the two had not spent so much time bantering/ arguing.