Four of historical romances strongest voices and brightest stars bring us a wonderful collection of stories. Rumor, gossip and outrageous behavior abound in the London society we all know and love. The ton shows no mercy to those who step over the bounds of propriety and they live on the tales of scandal made and prevented.
Eloisa James brings us A Proper Englishwoman. Gilbert Baring-Gould, Earl of Kerr is too handsome for his own good and far too intent on giving the ton all the gossip it can handle. When his Godmother summons him to her side, he realizes that his time as a bachelor is going to come to an end, but not before he has one last fling. Emma Loudan has been betrothed to Kerr since childhood, but Kerr has done nothing but ignore her and she has preferred it that way. That is until she learns that Kerr has a plan to break their betrothal before he has the chance to know her. Emma devises a plan to catch his eye, without him knowing who she is. If itís a woman of experience he really wants, then that is what heís going to get!
The Vicarís Widow by Julia London takes us to 1816 London and the fashionable neighborhood of Mayfair. Darien, Lord Montgomery is hosting a holiday soiree in honor of his sisterís recent nuptials when he notices that he is in need of more gin, as someone has helped himself to pouring a whole bottle of the stuff into the punch bowl. On his way to the cellar, he notices Kate Becket, the young wife of the vicar, standing against a stone wall fanning herself. After inviting her to a tour of his wine cellar, Darien can't help but notice how lovely she is and feels passion start to stir, but he holds himself in check as to not frighten her. But the dark wine cellar provides too much temptation and after taking her into his arms and sharing a soul shattering kiss, Darien knows he will never be the same. Three years later, after learning of the vicarís death, Darien once again approaches Kate, hoping to find the flame of passion that briefly stirred between them. But will seeking the attention of the vicarís widow be the proper thing to do? The ton would love nothing better than a fresh scandal.
In Clearly a Couple, Rebecca Hagan Lee continues her Free Fellows League series. Jonathon Manners, eleventh Earl of Barclay is on another mission for King and country, to retrieve a Ďparcelí from the cottage that the Free Fellows frequently used as a meeting place, return it to London and then be off on another mission. Simple right? Enter Lady India Burton, abducted from the ill-fated HMS Portsmouth by Barbary pirates and sold to a Sultan. When he finds out that India is the parcel he is supposed to pick up, all hell breaks loose, literally. Sheís guarded by a tall, muscled Saracen who has sworn to protect her, even if he has to kill her to do it. How is Jonathon ever going to get her away from this mountain of a man? But a more pressing question is, how is he going to keep his hands off her beautiful, trouser-clad, belly-button pierced skin?
Miss Jenny Altís First Kiss by Jacqueline Navin is a sweet story of Genvieve Alt (Jenny) and her desire to not be noticed by the notorious Miles, Earl of Hatherleigh. When Miles comes crashing into her life, Jenny doesnít know how to respond. Miles has scandal attached to his name when he married an actress who caused him great shame and now he is looking for a new wife, one of good birth who will bring respectability back into his name. But, when Milesí eyes fall on Jenny, all he can imagine is getting her into his arms and thinking that the ton can go to the devil. He needs to do what he can to make his life happy again.
All of these stories were filled with passion, love and romance. Also mix in adventure, scandal, laughter and wonderful secondary characters and you have the perfect anthology. All of the characters were well-written and very believable. The writerís description of the settings left nothing to the reader's imagination, as if the reader were walking right beside the characters.
The only story I had a little trouble with was Rebecca Hagan Leeís Clearly a Couple. Being this was another Free Fellows story, I felt that having to use it in an anthology took away from what Ms. Hagan Lee could have done with it if she were able to write it as a single title. It would have made a great 350 page historical romance.
Talk of the Ton is a fantastic pick for your spring reading. While the April showers are bringing in the May flowers, curl up in a cozy chair with a cup of tea and lose yourself in London society and the ton. Youíll be glad you did!