Plot (from avonromance.com)
Being kidnapped is teaching Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life: Lesson one: Never disrobe in front of a gentleman . . . unless his request comes at gunpoint. Lesson two: If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance. Lesson three: If presented with an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely. Lesson four: Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed. And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.
Things I Loved
Celia Seton grew up in India, only returning to England after her father’s death. Presented to society as the heir of a relative’s estate, her engagement falls through when the snobby Tarquin Compton compares her hair to a cauliflower at a ball. (True, but cruel.) Then the elderly relative dies suddenly, without changing his will. Celia takes a job as a governess, only to be fired for indecency after a strange man breaks into her room.
And then she gets kidnapped by a man who imprisons her–almost naked, natch–in an abandoned cottage on the Yorkshire moors. (As one does.)
Enter Tarquin Compton, returning to the family estate in Yorkshire. He happens upon the cottage at exactly the wrong moment. The kidnapper knocks him unconscious. When Celia manages to escape from her attic prison a few hours later, she finds her mortal enemy passed out downstairs with neither a shirt nor any idea who he is.
Because Celia is my kind of romance heroine, she decides to take revenge by pretending that he is a country parson and her fiancée. This could be construed as cruel, but as far as Celia is concerned, the real Tarquin would not have been willing to help some little cauliflower of a girl he refuses to acknowledge in public.
Stories about people lying to each other generally don’t do it for me. But it totally works here. If some guy forced me into servitude by comparing me to a cauliflower, I too would totally do my best to get back at him if he had amnesia. But Tarquin turns out to be a nice guy–snobby on the surface, but good at heart. I found the relationship between him and Celia totally believable, even when she was not telling him the truth about himself.
Also: weirdo eighteenth-century erotica. Eighteenth-century fiction is just weird in general (see: Evelina, Pamela, Mysteries of Udolpho), but the racy novel in question was hilariously bad. AND it is a real, live book that actually existed, not just a figment of the author’s imaginations. A modern mind could not come up with the rat thing. Just saying.
Also also: More kidnapping. Jewel thieves. House parties. What is there NOT to love about this book?
I seriously cannot believe Celia spent three days walking on the moor without shoes. How does a person do that without bleeding profusely from the feet?
2 out of 4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance). Proceed with caution if you’re more Georgette Heyer than Ellora’s Cave.