The Conquest of Lady Cassandra by Madeline Hunter
When Lady Cassandra Verhan was caught alone with a man, society expected her to marry him, but she shocked the ton when she refused and has since been living a life of scandal and notoriety. Operating on the fringes of society she lives with her Aunt Sophia, an absentminded lady with a scandalous past of her own, but manages to maintain friendships with some of the most well connected ladies of the ton. Yates Ellison, Viscount Ambury, was friends with the man who ruined Cassandra and who was recently killed in a due, presumably over Cassandra, so he has no kind feelings towards her. However, he does find that he is very attracted to her and is interested in discovering more about a necklace he recently purchased from her at an auction. Ambury is looking into the necklace at the behest of his dying father who believes that it was stolen, but Ambury does not want Sophia to know the truth so he asks her to look into the origins of the necklace before he pays for. Cassandra is desperate for the money as her brother, Gerald, is threatening to have Aunt Sophia placed in a home and Cassandra is determined to find a safe haven for herself and her aunt.
The investigation finds Cassandra and Ambury spending more time together than usual and neither can deny the sexual tension between them, and being more progressive adults than most of their peers, they give into their mutual desire. Ambury worries he is betraying his former friend, believing that she is responsible for his friend's ruined reputation and subsequent death during a duel, and even Cassandra because he has an ulterior motive. Cassandra is concerned about letting somebody close to her after the tumultuous life she has had but recognizes that she can use all the help she can find to get her aunt to safety. And she is beginning to wonder if Ambury is right about the origin of Aunt Sophia's necklace, and the rest of the jewelry in her possession. To keep Cassandra and her aunt safe, Ambury marries Cassandra, and together they must work to save Aunt Sophia and discover the secrets behind her jewels and in the process discover a whole lot of love.
There was a lot of back story in this novel that it was important to know and there were times that I wondered if I had accidentally skipped one of Hunter's stories. It was a stand alone for sure, but I definitely got the feeling that I would have been a little less loss if I had read this missing piece. Plus the background of the characters and how they had known each other was a little confusing and seemed like an attempt to cause some drama between the characters and there was already enough of that with the necklace plot. Cassandra was interesting, if not entirely relatable because the reader didn't really learn the entire truth of her situation until near the end and while I understand the author wanted the reader to be drawn in it just annoyed me. She was strong and independent and I very much admired her for that and her vulnerability when it came to her past made her more enjoyable and realistic. Ambury was cloaked in secrets and incredibly judgmental of Cassandra and refused to see the truth of what had happened with her and his friend until the very end which made him more than a little unlikable.
Ambury and Cassandra had a deep attraction for each other, we are told, but I really did not feel the sexual tension which surprised me as Hunter is usually adept at writing this. I did not like that they had already known each other and had an unpleasant past between them because it really was not resolved to my satisfaction. They didn't get to know each other again and forgive, it was more like they moved on without any true resolution of the past. There was enough sex in the book but I wasn't blown away by it and I would have liked more of a build up of their relationship. The plot involving the necklace was very interested and I found myself drawn in to what was going to happen to Aunt Sophia and how they would thwart Gerald. Some truly astounding discoveries were made surrounding this and I was completely blown away and surprised so that is always a nice way to end a story. The writing style flowed nicely and the book was an easy read.
Rating: A book that had potential but the side plots quickly took over the book and my interest since the relationship did not draw me in.