by Barbara Dawson Smith

October 2001
ISBN: 0-312-97272-5
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press
Mass Market Paperback

Lady Alicia Pemberton is about to make the ultimate sacrifice. She is going to offer herself as mistress to Drake Wilder, rogue, gamester and unprincipled scoundrel. She assumes that this gesture will cancel her younger brother's gaming debts to Wilder, but unfortunately, her assumption is completely wrong! The devilishly good-looking Wilder wryly points out that he can have any number of more voluptuous mistresses to pleasure him with far better skills than Alicia has; he also rather cruelly mentions that not many men are interested in the extra effort involved in deflowering a corseted and frighteningly well-bred virgin! No, a mistress is not what Drake Wilder is after - his price is much higher than that. He wants a wife!

The elegantly blonde Alicia is a heroine caught on the horns of a dilemma. She knows that without help she and her mother and brother will lose their home. While the elderly Lord Hailstock has made his feelings for Alicia quite clear, she knows that accepting his offer of marriage would condemn her slightly dotty mother to a life of confinement. (Not good.) Plus she would be marrying a man who was a friend of, and the same age as, her father! (Really not good!) On the other hand, she has the magnetically attractive Drake Wilder, unsuitable, ineligible, and beyond the pale of society, yet offering her marriage and hinting at sensual delights that a small part of Alicia's mind rather naughtily hungers for! (Pant, pant.) Fortunately for us readers, Alicia makes the correct choice.

Watching Drake carefully set about wooing his reluctant bride is a pleasure, even though we sense that Drake has another agenda. Watching Alicia as she sees her preconceived notions about Drake erode away is fascinating; as is her mounting desire to experience passion with this rogue! (Watch for a neat bathtub scene - it's nice to know that some of our heroes and heroines were clean!) Barbara Dawson Smith carefully weaves a colorful cloth from their interactions, adding threads of sub-plots involving an old mystery and a new threat. We meet friends from Alicia's past and servants from Drake's, how well these characters blend into the complete work is an example of plot development at its best. Alicia's sensual nature, once revealed, is a perfect match for Drake's passionate needs and their romance burns hotly throughout this very satisfying tale.

The entire book is eminently believable and true to its time - the actions and motives of all involved are realistic and logical - consequently, we readers can slip into this story and lose ourselves in it with no trouble at all! It's certainly enough to send us to the store for more books by this talented author.

Reviewed in October 2001 by Celia.

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