The Premise: To her group of bohemian artist friends, Caroline Townsend lives a luxuriant life full of rich parties. The scandalous widow, however, is hovering on the verge of poverty thanks to her late husband’s gaming debts. When Thomas, the stuffy Duke of Castleton, arrives in London to court one of her relations, Caro can’t resist needling him with invitations to masked balls and art parties. Thomas, who desperately wants a respectable wife, is shocked to find himself falling for Caro instead of the comparatively dull Anne. Both Caro and Thomas are harboring secrets, however; Thomas discovers an unpleasant truth about his family and Caro is hiding a Titian Venus in her spare room. (Cover image from www.avonromance.com.)
Bonus Factors: art, cross-dressing, horse racing, terrible communication, misunderstandings, racy parties, awkward sex, money problems
My Reaction: Sometimes mid-book weddings can be kind of awkward, but this one worked well. Negotiating crushing debt is becoming more and more common in modern marriages (thanks, terrible economy and student loans!) so I was glad to see that incorporated here. Another hilarious touch is that the incredibly dull Thomas had an equally dull mistress, which leads to some fantastically awkward sex. Even better, he doesn’t become magically better on the second try; it takes time for him to improve his technique (like it does in, you know, real life). Normally, this level of terrible communication makes the main characters seem too stupid to live, but in this case it made sense. Also, I love that this the first in a series about art collectors (to complement the Burgundy Club series about book collectors). Overall, I enjoyed this one but didn’t quite fall in love with it.
Rating: 2.5/4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance)