This was a beautiful love story – or rather two love stories. Lady Caroline Wynn had a terrible husband who has left her feeling as if she were frigid in bed – and she wants to find out once and for all if she is. The opportunity comes when
’s two most infamous rakes (the Duke of Rothay, Nicholas Manning, and the Earl of Manderville, Derek Drake) make a drunken bet as to who is the better lover. With a secret note, Caroline communicates with them and agrees to be the judge of their wager if they promise not to reveal her name - and the fun begins. London
Nicholas whisks her away first to his
Essex estate for a week of sexual pleasure. I won’t tell you too much about the specifics of their days (or nights) together there – but Nicholas is heartwarmingly sweet, sensitive, and romantic. He’s also sexy and sensual – but more important he listens to her, and is impressed by her bluestocking tendencies. He loves all of her and is searching to discover all of her, beyond the physical their original wager implied. When their time is over and he remembers it’s Derek’s turn to take her, he’s overcome by a strange melancholy and possessiveness (and we know what that means). The rest of their time together, leading up to the eventual HEA is just as sweet and tenderly romantic. I loved it.
Derek, meanwhile, is not terribly interested in the wager or bedding Lady Wynn. He has his eyes set on his Uncle’s ward – Lady Annabel Reid. Growing up with her, he’d always known of Annie’s infatuation, but not until a stolen kiss in the library did he realize he returned her affections. Scared, running from the prospect of love, he turned to another woman and was caught in the act by Annie. Now she’s betrothed to someone else, and he’s determined to win back the only lady he’s ever loved. Derek is sweet, helpful, kind, and very lovable. As he works to regain Annie's trust, you can feel the depth of his love for her through his desperation. Annie, meanwhile, is not fool enough to trust him immediately just because she still loves him - but is smart enough to give him a second chance.
What is there to say about this book? It was two beautiful stories of how love can sneak up on even the most hardened of men and women. The characters were all convincing, true to themselves, strong and undeniably wonderful. The heroes were incredible, especially Nicholas. The heroines were compassionate and understanding – and smart enough to not turn away from a good thing. The plot was focused solely on the romance –and the theme of how love can heal old wounds was poignant and strong. The book moved at a great pace. It was a beautiful, sweet, romantic journey that spoke to my heart and left me laughing, crying, and undeniably happy.
Favorite quotes (there were oh so many to pick from):
The Northern ice cap was rumored to be warmer than Lady Wynn.
“If you are willing to give me credit for the weather, I’ll take it. I ordered this gorgeous evening just for you.” (Rothay)
“And if anyone could coerce the elements into compliance with his wishes, you could, Rothay.” (Caroline)
“To best Lord Manderville? You know him better than I do, but I would guess since he is part of the wager, he will put his best foot forward.”
...He muttered, “His foot isn’t what I’m worried about.”
“Sexy”ness rating: Really, REALLY hot. And tender and sweet.
Overall Rating: A
Bottom Line: This book was, without a doubt, excellent. The heroes are amazing, the heroines are beautiful, strong, and true to themselves… it was just a beautiful story of the healing powers of love. Seriously.
Published: February 20, 2009