Nicole Jordan takes the delights of the Regency mating game to breathless new heights in this daring second novel of a superb new trilogy, The Courtship Wars.
Clever and charming Roslyn Loring, the middle child of three beautiful, independent sisters, knows that true happiness lies in a marriage of the heart-and she has hers set on a love-match with a neighboring earl. Yet her sharp mind has observed an undeniable truth: Gentlemen lavish passion on their mistresses, not their wives. Roslyn realizes that to win her future husband's devotion, she must learn the secrets of kindling a gentleman's ardor. Fortunately, she finds a willing tutor in Drew Moncrief, the Duke of Arden, a notorious rake whispered to be London's most magnificent lover. If his searing kisses are any indication, the duke is the ideal man to teach Roslyn how to be the perfect mistress.
Drew begins schooling Roslyn while coolly guarding his heart. But as best-laid plans are thwarted by unexpected events-including a night of unforgettable passion-Roslyn and her wickedly arousing tutor discover how easily lessons in pleasure can become lessons in love. . .
This is book #2 in the Courtship Wars, and I enjoyed this one even more than the first. Roslyn is the middle Loring sister, and reputed to be the most beautiful. But her looks have been more of a curse than a blessing, having had to endure scandalous propositions from bounders and lecherous rakes when society snubs the Loring sisters and they are left to fend for themselves for many years. But these young ladies are determined not to bow down to anyone, and find a way to better their circumstances without having to rely on a man for protection.
Now that her older sister Arabella is on the verge of being wed, Roslyn decides to pursue her dream of finding a husband of her own. But she has some definite ideas of what she wants in a marriage, most notably she intends to secure a love match, and with sensible and methodical planning, Roslyn has come to the conclusion that men tend to love their mistresses more than their wives, and decides this is the avenue of action she'd like to take in order to procure herself a suitable mate. But being a lady, she is innocent in the ways of mistresses. She decides to ask childhood friend Franny, an infamous London courtesan, for assistance in attending a Cyprian ball to research the behavior of men and women engaging in wanton behavior. Roslyn believes witnessing such activity will give her a better understanding of what it is that makes men adore their mistresses so much more than their wives.
Of course during her little outing she attracts the attention of a wicked gentleman, none other than the Duke of Arden, who just coincidentally happens to be a good friend to Marcus Pierce, her former guardian. Only Drew has no idea who the lovely lady is behind the mask, only that she greatly intrigues him by running from him instead of to him. Like a tiger hunting his prey, Drew chases after her, and gives her a taste of the pleasures he is more than willing to share with her in a more private setting. But Roslyn, though quite tempted, declines the duke's naughty proposition, insisting she has no desire to be his mistress. Narrowly avoiding being seduced, she's relieved to escape without Drew being any the wiser to her identity, and her virginity intact.
But she underestimates the affect she has on the arrogant duke, who recognizes her at her sister's wedding, and demands to know why she was at such a scandalous event where he very nearly could have taken her innocence. She manages to avoid his demanding questions for awhile, but eventually he threatens to expose her activities to Marcus unless she confesses. Because Marcus and her sister are about to embark on their honeymoon, Roslyn relents. Having chosen a man to whom she believes she can form an emotional attachment to, she approaches the duke for his guidance in teaching her the ways to ensnare a man's heart through seduction.
Drew is reluctant to assist her in her questionable plan. Having been the object of scheming women for much of his adult life, he's jaded enough to believe Roslyn is using him in an elaborate plan to trap him into matrimony, not another man, but Roslyn laughs off his doubts. Refreshingly honest and rather immune to his charms, she insists she has no nefarious designs on his person, or his title for that matter, and only wishes to use his vast experience with mistresses to make her perspective future husband fall madly in love with her.
The two engage in private lessons, and the more time Drew spends with the beautiful Roslyn, the more enamored he becomes with her. She truly has no desire to marry him, yet the two become fast friends. He's intrigued by her intellient and sensible mind, her passion for books and maps, her preference for simple and meaningful gifts, her lack of vanity. But his observations, and the close proximity he shares with her only fuels his blazing lust for the lovely Roslyn. He knows he's a fool for continuing to tutor her to win the heart of another man when he himself is so intensely attracted to her, but he cannot manage to stay away.
It irritates him that he's becoming increasingly attracted to his willing pupil while she seems to be completely immune to his charms. He's playing a dangerous game, taking her further and further into dangerously seductive territory. But he cannot seem to help himself, and he realizes he's becoming nearly obsessed with fantasies of having her for his own. But she is a lady and he knows he cannot engage in a heated affair with her. So after yet another frustrating encounter, he decides that though he doesn't love her, he very much would like to make Roslyn his duchess.
Of course being a man, he mucks that up, and puts Roslyn immediately on the defensive. She's been upfront from the start that she will only marry for love, not convenience, but Drew insists their union will be stronger and more sensible than any love match - they will share a deep passion but not be dragged down by an emotional entanglement. Despite her adamant refusal to Drew's proposal of marriage, Roslyn can no longer deny her strong attraction to Drew, and melts willingly in his arms. Making love with him is more incredible than she'd ever imagined, and she knows she can never be with the man she chose as a candidate for her future husband after what she's shared with Drew. Yet how will she ever make a love match with a man who doesn't even believe that such a union exists?
This time around I was very pleased to learn as much about our hero as we do our heroine. We do see how Drew was raised, and where he got his aversion to marriage. We understand why he doesn't believe in love, and why Roslyn cannot live without it. I felt these two were extremely well-matched, and genuinely cared deeply for each other. While teaching Roslyn the way to a man's heart, the two spend a great deal of time together, and I loved watching them growing closer. Though their "courting" took place over the course of only a few weeks, it was intense and sweet and passionate. I know I fell in love right along with them.
This story seemed to be more like the Nicole Jordan stories I remember, where both main characters harbor painful secrets that dictate their beliefs and/or actions. The passion is immediate and incendiary, and despite their best efforts, I think they begin to fall in love right away, though reluctantly. I love it when they are a little tortured about their feelings, yet not so much so that I'm rolling my eyes with impatience. I think there's a nice balance here, one that drags out the tension but not too much. Ms. Jordan uses this brief timespan to throw her wonderful characters together in convincing scenarios that give them ample opportunity to fall deeply in love with each other, which inevitably they do. I loved the intensity between the characters, and their obvious affection for each other right from the start. Their personalities blended so well together. And there's nothing like watching a hero who doesn't believe in love fall head over heels for that one special woman. I enjoyed it immensely.
In addition to the primary love story, which was superb, there were some secondary storylines that intrigued me involving the Loring sisters' patroness Winifred, as well as the reappearance of family confidante Fanny. I'm curious to see who happens with Roslyn's original choice for a husband, as he seems definitely like hero material in his own right. And up next is the story of the youngest sister, Lilian, which sounds to be pretty promising. I look forward to it.
The Courtship Wars is a fun, sexy, endearing series that makes me very happy to know there are still at least 2 books left for me to enjoy. I'm also glad I decided to get all 4 of the currently released stories instead of one at a time. They are definitely worth it so far.
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****
How do you feel about lessons in love:
genuinely helpful or a huge waste of time?
Labels: Nicole Jordan, quickie reviews