Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Brava (June 26, 2007)
IT STARTS WITH ONE PERFECT KISS...
"SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL" by Susan Johnson
James Bell, Viscount Ormond, is a shameless rake, infamous for his skills in seduction--and Claire Russell doesn't intend for her sister to become his latest conquest. That is why she's come to the viscount's private masked ball. The flagrant sensuality and unabashed decadence on display there are shocking, but they are nothing compared to the scandalous fire Claire feels when James makes a wholly improper suggestion...improper, indecent, and very, very tempting...
"MISCHIEF AND THE MARQUESS" by Sylvia Day
Justin, the Marquess of Fontaine, and Lady Sophie Milton-Riley have no desire to marry one another. To satisfy their mothers' insistence that they would be an ideal pairing, they set out to demonstrate how completely ill-suited they are. Justin is allergic to her perfume. Sophie dislikes his dogs. He prefers blondes; she, brunette men. But the more they seek to prove how wrong their union would be, the more right things feel. And when opposites attract, there's no denying the sparks...or the heat...
"THE RUBY KISS" by Noelle Mack
Susannah Fowler is in possession of many temptations--an independent nature, a quick wit, and lush curves. She is also in possession of a fortune in stolen jewels hidden within her favorite corset. If rakehell Carlyle Jameson wants it, he will have to remove it himself. From her boudoir...or from her body. One kiss ought to distract her, but one kiss leads to another and another, till there's no turning back...and no desire to try...
I've read a few Johnson books in my time, and I categorized her along with Robin Schone as having really erotic love scenes that are a little...unsettling, clinical. While very explicit and straightforward, they left me feeling rather cold and put off. Not to say they weren't talented authors, but their style just didn't appeal to me. Suffice it to say, it had been years since I've read a book by either author. But Ms. Johnson had a novella in this Brava anthology, and since I love both Brava and historicals, I decided to pick it up, and boy, I was pleasantly surprised - Johnson's story ended up being my favorite of the three.
Miss Claire Russell rushes to a wicked masquerade ball to save her impulsive and spoiled sister from being ruined. When she arrives, she discovers Harriet in the arms of the notorious rake James Bell, Viscount Ormond. Luckily she manages to send her sister home, only to discover she herself has captured the attention of the gloriously attractive Ormond. Not immune to his overwhelming charms, she strikes a deal with the devil to protect her sister's reputation and hopes of making an advantageous marriage. But will the price be too high for either of them?
Claire is wonderful: intelligent, headstrong, fearless yet not the prudish plain sister one might expect in these types of situations. Ormond is temptation itself, bored with his jaded lifestyle yet sensitve to past loss. These two seem to be an unlikely pair, but they both have more in common than it would first appear, and their time together is not only hot and wicked, but rather romantic as well.
I am a huge Sylvia Day fan, and this was the real reason I picked up this anthology, not for the model on the cover. This story was remniscent of her Brava anthology "Bad Boys Ahoy", which I just adored.
Justin and Sophie are old friends, having spent their formative years together. After surviving a scandal, Lady Sophie has come for a visit with her grandmother to see Justin and his mother and is caught a bit unawares by her immediate attraction to Justin, whom she always thought was too serious and cautious. Despite all that, she has no desire to wed, and tries to convince the Marquess of Fontaine that it would be in both their best interests to convince the older ladies that a match between them would be utterly foolish.
But Justin has other ideas, and is determined to convince this headstrong, vivacious woman that they should wed, scandal be damned. Moving heaven and earth and anything else that stands in his way, Justin makes it clear that he will do anything for the woman he loves, even if it means accepting a fall from grace, because nothing is more important than having her by his side, for a lifetime.
Sylvia always creates such wonderful heroines who are not what you'd expect. Sophie is no different, and I found myself liking her instantly. Justin came across a bit rigid and unforgiving at first, but upon seeing Sophie again, he opens up his heart to happiness, especially Sophie's. Their attraction is red-hot and delicous, and to have Justin fight to be with Sophie is definitely romantic and completely perfect. There was a lot to love in this novella.
I've only read one other book by Noelle Mack, an Aphrodisia called "Three", and it just didn't appeal to me very much. I didn't find it to be very hot or sexy, rather it seemed to allude more than to tell, and those are just not my kinds of stories. While this story was better than the one from that book, it was the weakest of this anthology, for much the same reason.
Susannah Fowler has a fortune in gems hidden in a lovely corset, and Carlyle Jameson needs to get to them before she discovers the treasure. Of course this is easier said than done when it comes to dealing with this stubborn, unconventional beauty, who is more comfortable in the heat of India, where she grew up, and is having trouble acclimating to the chilly and damp English setting. The only thing keeping her from completely losing her mind is her friendship with the dashing Mr. Jameson, who sets her soul on fire. If only he would kiss her.... Carlyle wants to, he really does, but he knows that Susannah must find a suitable husband, and that person is not him. Yet how long can he go resisting temptation before he gives into passion?
This story had the makings of something exciting, with hidden jewels, a forbidden attraction, the flavor of India and the threat of danger following them at every turn, but it couldn't quite meet my expectations, and I found myself yawning throughout most of the story. It seems a lot is resolved with no actual discussion, and if you blink, you miss it. While much better told than "Three", I felt somewhat frustrated and unable to connect with the characters or their story. I would like to go back at some point and re-read it, see if I still feel the same a second time around.
All in all, it's worth it for the first two stories in the anthology, which were both romantic and erotic historicals that worked well and complemented each other perfectly. Brava is still a favorite line of mine, and I am glad to see historicals in their line-up.
Labels: anthology, Brava, reviews