Sunday, April 20, 2008

To Bed a Beauty by Nicole Jordan

This story was the 2nd book in the Courtship Wars series and one I was looking forward to. Although To Pleasure a Lady, the first installment left me a bit dissatisfied it didn't leave without the curiosity to know the fates of the other two Loring sisters, especially Roslyn who is known as the beauty of the group.

Poor Roslyn has had her share of bad luck with men since the sisters feel in disgrace after their mother ran off with a Frenchman. We discovered in the first book that the mom was a victim of circumstance as much as any other and that the real culprit for the sister's disastrous reputation could easily be laid on the father's feet.

After experiencing several years in poverty, Roslyn was not seen by men as a Lady, but as a fallen woman, a woman that has been propositioned several times. Roslyn seeks love in her marriage and won't settle for less. She witnessed many parental arguments due to her father's infidelities and then her mother's. She has sworn to avoid a marriage of convenience at any cost and has set out to educate herself in the art of making a man fall in love. She has her eyes set on a particular neighbor who just came into his title and who, she observes, has all the characteristics of a man she could love. Now all she needs to do is make him fall in love with her. She recruits Fanny Irwin, the courtesan family friend we met in To Pleasure a Lady, to help her. Fanny takes Roslyn to a Cyprian Ball so that she can observe how the courtesan's entice the men. She never expected to see the Duke of Arden at the ball.

Drew Moncrief, the Duke of Arden is one of Marcus, Lord Danver's best friends. He has put aside his most recent mistress and is out shopping at the ball when he catches a glimpse of a newcomer. He goes off to pursue her only to have her run from him. When he finds her, he seduces her into a few kisses and a bit of first base, but is completely confounded by her reluctance in accepting his protection. This is completely cleared up later on when he discovers that the beauty he was seducing was his friend's new sister in law! He is a bit upset but quickly puts it aside when he discovers that she was not out to trap anyone into marriage (one of his worst nightmares) but was in fact trying to pick up skills to capture the heart of another. Obviously he has decided to offer his services in teaching her everything a man is looking for in the woman to be his bride.

The book itself has a worn premise and the whole 'I met you in a masked ball and could not get you out of my mind' has been used so many times it should be banned among plots that can be used in a romance but then the story moved into another plot outline that has been so overused it also should be banned "Let me teach you the secrets of love so that you can seduce the man you REALLY want". What is different about this book is that Jordan made it work.

Arden was so jaded and Roslyn so refreshing that the story just worked. Arden has never been loved for himself and because Roslyn only had eyes for her neighbor, she didn't pose a threat to him, he never felt pursued and could bring his guard down, learning to savor a relationship with a woman that, although lustful, was relaxing. I loved that even though the time line was short he fell in love with a friend.

Roslyn on her part found herself the resistant one. She did not want to fall for the Duke, a man who admitted he did not have a heart to give. Someone that she argued with and who caused painful memories to resurface. When she was found compromised, she still resisted the marriage because she wanted love. She was a wonderful character who had some wounds to heal. She would eventually learn that she could not have love without trust and she needed to trust Arden capable of loving her.

There was a secondary story line where Winifred, lady Freemantle, discovers that her husband not only kept a mistress but a whole separate family. She recruits Drew and Roslyn to find out who is trying to steal a brooch with a picture of her late husband only to discover the alternate life he had led before dying,

It seems that the third installment to this series was taking place at the same time this story was evolving because Lily, the youngest Loring sister, runs away to London. What is she running from, we will have to wait to read about it in her story.

Grade: B+


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