A sweet love story based on a marriage of convenience, Ravishing in Red is a strong start to Madeline Hunter’s new historical romance series.
Audrianna Kelmsleigh’s father was accused of treason, resulting in disastrous consequences. Her family shunned by society, she goes to live with her cousin in a boarding house of sorts called ‘The Rarest Blooms’. She sees an ad in a newspaper relating to information in her father’s case, and wishing to clear her name she rushes off to meet the would be informant. Instead of meeting him, however, she meets Lord Sebastian Summerhays, who is investigating the same issue. He is shot accidentally, leading to a scandal and eventually their marriage. Their marriage is further complicated by the fact that it was Sebastian who led the case against her father, leading her to distrust him.
The good, the bad and the rec
At first look, this appears to be another marriage of convenience story, but Madeline Hunter’s craftsmanship reveals the story beautifully, with patient anticipation. Audrianna and Sebastian’s relationship grows slowly, enhanced by the other elements of the plot—treason, Sebastian’s brother and bitch from hell mother, Audrianna’s BFFs—and Hunter does a great job of weaving all the different points together. I liked the way they fell in love. It was gradual enough to be realistic, but not so slow that you didn’t see your—or their—patience rewarded. I liked how it was more obvious that Sebastian fell first, though she wasn’t so far behind. I also liked how Audrianna embraced her sensuality, and how while she was an innocent, she wasn’t an idiot about it either.
That said, while I appreciate that if Audrianna hadn’t gone off by herself to a random coaching inn to confront the treasonous informant there would be no reason for her marriage, it was kind of a stupid thing to do. The character herself admits her foolhardiness when she gets there. Fair enough, it is integral to the plot, but how did she make it there in one piece without being molested or anything? Tiny niggling plot bits aside, this book has more good bits than bad bits.
The love story was sweet, and the sex, while always present, was never quite a forced part of the plot. I also appreciated how they had separate bedrooms without the usual exceptional reasons for them to share rooms together—e.g. my parents shared a bed, I don’t believe in separate rooms, I am unconventional, etc. Their relationship blossomed gradually, as did the amount of time they spent together—in and out of bed.
Yay or nay?
I liked this book. Madeline Hunter can be hit or miss for me—some of her series books were lovely, some were just not put together well. For me she’s the kind of author where if she hits the mark with a book, the rest of the series is great, and if it doesn’t start out good, the rest of the series is crap. Thankfully this seems to be a series that has started off strongly, and I look forward to the next one.*
*I gave up books for Lent, and as the sequel is not on the list of 4 books I’m allowed to buy, this will have to wait until Easter. :(
This is the first book in The Rarest Blooms series. The next book, Provocative in Pearls, is due for release in March 2010.
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