Her wealth and beauty have made Miss Portia Crompton the catch of the season. Secretly determined to wed the maharajah's son she left behind in India, Portia ignores the money-hungry bucks who ply her with bouquets and bonbons. But one suitor will not be deterred: Colin Byrd, Viscount Ratcliffe. He is persistent and presumptuous--and wickedly tempting.
Colin has no delusions about romance. He's a rogue, a womanizer, and a murderer, and seduction comes as easily to him as breathing. Portia's fortune is an irresistible lure until Colin's mercenary scheme hits a snag. Winning her dowry is no longer enough--he wants her heart and her passion. The more adamant she is in her refusal, the more determined he is to seduce her...
I recently saw this being discussed at RomanceBuytheBook and because it's been awhile since I read a historical romance, I was immediately interested in this one. I stopped by the bookstore a few days later so the book ended up in my hands.
I've not found much on Olivia Drake. She doesn't appear to have her own website, however on the copyright page, it lists Barbara Dawson Smith's name. Bingo. I've never read any of her books, but I did head over to her site to see if I could find out more. However it doesn't appear that the author is very good at updating her website. So I have to conclude that they are one in the same and leave it at that.
Colin Byrd is in desperate need of a rich wife. It just happens to be a wonderful coincidence that an untitled, wealthy family is out in society and they have a beautiful daughter of marriage age. He knows that he must find a way to set himself apart from all the dandies and rakes determined to claim her hand.
One evening while dining at the lovely home of the Duke of Albright, Portia finds herself having said the wrong thing yet again. Her comments set off the wagging tongues of the disapproving matriarchs, and Portia must listen to their thinly veiled insults in silence. But whilst this is going on, a bit of drama occurs when one of the matriarchs is "attacked" by a rogue strawberry, and panic ensues.
She looks up to find her champion is none other than the exceptionally handsome man standing not far away, dining on a strawberry himself. Portia is immediately fascinated, and though society dictates she shan't converse with a gentleman to whom she hadn't been introduced, she decides that under the circumstances, exceptions can be made.
The two banter back and forth for several minutes, but before too much time can pass, rescue in the form her her mother and the Duke of Albright enlighten Portia to the identity of her champion: he is Viscount of Ratcliffe, and he is responsible for his father's death.
From then on, Portia is determined to avoid Ratcliffe, and uses the Duke as a means to keep him at bay. Portia has promised herself to another, and using the Duke as a buffer will keep other gentleman from offering for her hand. All, that is, but the most persistent Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe isn't ready to give up so easily. He's rather taken with the bold baggage who snubs him at every turn. He's convinced his powers of seduction will prove to be her undoing. But he's rather flummoxed to discover that despite her attraction to him, Portia manages to hold strong and resist giving into his charms. How can he convince her that there's more between them than her dowry?
No question, this book is rather charming. I immediately liked both characters, and enjoyed watching them spar with each other. Neither were what their outward appearances would seem; Portia has her heart set on marrying her childhood sweetheart, despite their differences in backgrounds and society's disapproval. And Colin is obviously protecting someone weaker than himself. I thought these two characters were amazing together, and it was most enjoyable watching them set sparks off each other.
What I didn't care for was the predictable drama. We soon learn Ratcliffe and the Duke of Albright are sworn enemies, and it appears the Duke courts Portia as a form of revenge. Of course Portia's parents want her to marry the Duke. The Duke has done some really unforgivable things; he truly is a villain; yet her parents are blind to everything but his social status. Colin is forced into taking drastic measures, which result in a duel. It all seems really silly in the end.
However the relationship and strong feelings between Portia and Colin were enough to keep me interested in their story. Neither realize they are falling in love, yet they cannot keep away from each other. Portia sees proof that Colin is not the man society paints him to be, and Colin realizes that Portia is no spineless young woman. As I said, it was charming.
Rating: **** out of *****