by Julia Ross

February 2004
ISBN: 0-425-19406-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Berkley
Trade Paperback

Once in a while, a reader is lucky to discover an author who may not be a household name, but has a gift for writing. I discovered Julia Ross last year, and have been patiently waiting for her next book, The Wicked Lover, to arrive on my doorstep. It is finally here, and let me tell you that my wait was not in vain.

The Wicked Lover tells the story of Robert Sinclair “Dove” Dovenby, one of the secondary characters in her last book, The Seduction. While of common birth, Dove has secured a place in society by keeping company with Lady Margaret, Countess of Grenham. Amusing and stylish, he moves through the ton like a brilliant flame, coaxing even the most staid matrons to sigh, young maidens to swoon at his regard. Yet apart from his public liaison with the wealthy and influential widow, he remains a mystery. He is not at all what he appears to be, what he allows society to see.

When his friend and companion publicly denounce him as a scoundrel, Dove is shocked. What has caused this estrangement? Upon arriving at his apartments, Dove discovers the answer, for Meg has left them trussed like chickens waiting for the fox - a young French maid and her youthful charge that were discovered in his room by the jealous countess. But wait - the young man isn’t a man at all - but a woman in disguise! Why is she here? Is her escapade only the wager that she claims or is her purpose more devious? Whatever the reasons, Dove is intrigued and hires “George White” as his secretary, so that he can recoup some of the losses he has incurred in Meg’s wrath.

Sylvie Georgiana White, Countess of Montevrain, is no stranger to espionage, although this is the first time she has impersonated a man. On a mission for her dear friend and spymaster the Duke of Yveshire, Sylvie is trying to find evidence that Dovenby caused the death of Yveshire’s younger brother. She does not expect to fall victim to his notorious charm. She also does not expect to become enamored with the freedom of being a man - far different from the confining life of a woman in Georgian society.

Ms. Ross has written a stunning tale of intrigue and passion. Dove and Sylvie are so wrapped up in their secret lives that they have a difficult time with the honest emotions that they are feeling. The author’s skillful use of language gives us some of the most beautiful and erotic imagery I have read in a long time. When these two people finally come together in passion it is a passage to be savored and appreciated. There are many moments in this book to relish. As all of the secrets are revealed, the plot does not subside. It carries through to interesting and satisfying conclusions for a number of the characters, not only Dove and Sylvie. I feel very strongly about this book, and hope that some of you will not be shy about the trade price tag or put off by the slower productivity of the author. While you may wait a bit for her next book, the rewards are well worth it.

Reviewed in January 2004 by Paula.

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