Leila Beaumont is a gorgeous and talented portrait painter trapped in a loveless marriage with her profligate husband, Francis. Though long ago, Francis very much played the hero, rescuing and wedding the orphaned 17-year-old Leila – Francis’ more recent hedonistic lifestyle of drinking, drugging and womanizing has not only earned him quite a few enemies in London, but lost him the love of his wife.
When Francis turns up dead in the Beaumont townhouse, right after a loud and vitriolic argument with his wife, Leila is seen as the primary suspect, innocent though she is. Because of Francis’ many enemies and victims, government officials instigate a quiet investigation, many of whom fear fallout from Francis’ numerous blackmail and extortion schemes.
The man they call on – the sexy blue-eyed Comte d’Esmond – is a man of many talents who has spent the past ten years as one of the government’s most trusted covert operatives; a man who also has a dark and treacherous past.
Neither Leila, nor d’Esmond is especially happy to be working together – their relationship is one of intense attraction accompanied by intense resistance. Leila had long ago given up on the idea of love and saw her husband as a means of propriety in London, but now she finds the dangerous Esmond’s seductive charm nearly irresistible.But work together they must: Esmond, with a carefully hidden identity that would shock Leila to the core and Leila with her own secrets to keep…
It’s danger that unites them and it’s danger that chains their hearts: Esmond’s virility and bold touch enflame Leila’s blood…and draw her into the most irresistible intrigue of all…truly passionate love.
I read these out of order, being captivated by Lord of Scoundrels I had to go back, but fortunately my library had the entire series available for immediate checkout. It turns out though, that books 2-4 in the series are somewhat intertwined. While this one does start out before the events of book 3, if I am reading it aright, it actually spans past book 4. So I am not entirely certain how it is book 2 in the series, but whatever, just know it is possible to read them out of order and be able to follow along, but perhaps for the way the characters in this story (in my opinion) suffer by comparison, it might be best to read them in order.
And I hate to say it, but this one just doesn’t quite come up to LoS’s level. Don’t get me wrong, it is good, quite good, and Loretta Chase has a hell of a way of turning a phrase, writing interesting characters, and mysteries. I don’t know, it just didn’t hit me quite the same way. Maybe it is that I read them out of order?
In any event, Leila is a strong willed and self possessed woman. She’s almost a little too perfect perhaps. She’s artistic and wickedly clever, almost preternaturally so. The Comte d’Esmond is almost ridiculously opaque, though Leila figures him out soon enough. There was a reasonable degree of chemistry there I suppose, they just didn’t come close to extremes exhibited by Jessica and Sebastian. Kind of like fuzzy copies, Leila just wasn’t near the tyro that Jessica was, and while Esmond had his own sad story, he just couldn’t tug my heart strings like Sebastian did. Perhaps if I had read the first book in the series (something it turns out I have no interest in doing), I might have had more sympathy for him…or maybe not.
What really shined though was the mystery and how they just kept turning through suspects and incidents and intrigues, like a a two headed snake that was eating itself, it kept me racing through the pages. I simply had to find out what happened next.
I don’t know what to say, overall it was middling so there’s just not much to say, it is good enough that it wouldn’t put me off reading her if I had started here, but I don’t think it is her strongest effort and it won’t be going on my re-reads shelf.