Genre: historical romance. I love this cover!
One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.
One chance to break the rules…
Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.
One season to fall in love…
Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?
Lady Madeleine Vaillant is 28 and firmly on the shelf. When her parents died in France years ago, her aunt and uncle took her in and raised her the same as their own daughter Amelia. The two girls grew up as sisters, with Alex as their big brother. Her uncle gave her a dowry as big as Amelia’s, so she certainly is not penniless. But still, the ton never sees her next to the beautiful Amelia. She never lacks for dancepartners, while Madeleine longs for a dance. With their friend Prudence, they form a group called the muses of Mayfair. Amelia is a novelist writing under a pseudonym, Prudence loves science and corresponds with many men throughout the country (including Alex!) and Madeleine loves to act. Of course, none of those pursuits are acceptable for young ladies of the ton.
But now Madeleine has rebelled, she is secretly performing in a small theater, having the time of her life. She knows it can just be for a few weeks, but she loves the acting, the being a part of a play and especially the adoration of the public. But when she tries to quit, the owner of the theater blackmails her in staying another month. And Madeleine reluctantly agrees.
The next night at a ball, the most notorious of all the Duke’s, propositions her to chaperone his two younger sisters. After all, she is a spinster with an impeccable reputation. Due to a lot of deaths in the family, they have been in mourning for the past four years. The rumors go that his older brother killed their father and himself, instead of it being an accident. Which is how Ferguson became the new Duke of Rothwell and that there is a trace of madness in the family. His oldest two brothers were unstable, he himself and his younger sister became the biggest scandals in the ton, and are almost denied access, and his youngest two sisters have been secluded by their father for most of their lives. His sisters hate him for abandoning them to their father, when he went to Scotland at 24. He managed to make such a scandal of himself, that the Duke had no other choice but to banish him from his house and estate. And that was exactly what Ferguson wanted, away from the Duke, who was a cruel monster. He does feel guilty that he could not help his sisters, but he needed to save himself.
His man of affairs suggest he visits a certain theatre that is part of his holdings, to see if they cannot up the rent. Ferguson doesn’t think much of the theater, but he agrees to go with some of his old friends. And when he gets a look at the lead actress, a woman playing Hamlet! And doing it superbly, the audience is completely in her thrall, he is lost. He is determined to make her his mistress, and when she refuses him, he just will wear her down. It is just not done such a pretty woman without a protector. A couple of servants are not enough to stop him. And so he follows her carriage, and to his big surprise, they go inside the servants entrance of a house he knows.
Madeleine is terrified that Ferguson will recognize her, but so far, no one has seen through her disguise. People one see what they expect to see. But when he comes to visit her the next day with his sisters in tow, she knows her ruse is over. He knows who she is. To her surprise, he does not condemn her, or expose her secrets, he seems to understand what drives her. and he will do his best to help her and keep her safe, even if that means Madeleine as her alter ego posing as his mistress. What ever will keep the wolves of the ton at bay.
But when her family finds out, they are livid, and threaten to send her abroad. They have their own reputations to think of, Amelia’s and that of Alex’s future wife and children. Madeleine is furious at Amelia to spill the beans like that, just because she did not want Madeleine to get involved with Ferguson.
Ferguson is determined to have Madeleine as his Duchess, but she refuses. She will have no freedom left at all, she would be expected to become one of the leading hostesses. Even though she has fallen in love with him, she knows love is not enough.
I really liked this story, is was original, and Ferguson is a really tortured hero inside. I liked how he acted with Madeleine (Mad), and how he wanted to repair his relationship with his sisters. What I did not like was how he abandoned them before, and is totally planning on returning to Scotland when he has them safely married. Mad will get used to the quiet life there, even though there would be nothing to do for her at all. Which means, he still thinks only of himself. He does not want to be the next Duke, or take care of all his holdings, that is work his stewards can do. And well, I am just not used to heroes who don’t want to take responsibility for their lives.
Madeleine is a spinster, and she does not like it, but she also does not want to get married. It will cost her what little freedom she has, as her cousin Alex is not a stern guardian for her and his sister. But still, she longs to be an actress, and she is so very good at it. When rumors get serious that Ferguson has killed her actress-alias, she will do what is necessary to clear his name, even though Ferguson refuses. But finally she can make him see reason. Mad is strong, but also caring, and she tries to bring Ferguson and his sister closer together.
Sara Ramsey has a nice writing style, her characters are very lifelike and I came to care for them. I am already looking forward to the next book, which is unfortunately not available at Bookdepository yet (neither is this one, so Amazon it is). The story managed to surprise me at times, which is especially nice in an historical romance, where there is not much room left for something original. There is ofcourse humor, and some love scenes, but not too much. I liked that Ferguson did not try to seduce her time and again to get her to agree to marrying hm.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian