Ever since I picked up Madeline Hunter’s medieval romance, By Arrangement, set in 14th century London, she has kept me spellbound to her writing with the breathtaking attention to details she imbues in her description of the period setting. In this, her latest romance series, she introduced four independent women who live together communally just on the outskirts of London, and they all contribute to the household funds, helping to garden and harvest the flowers for enigmatic widow Daphne’s trade, The Rarest Blooms.
Here’s a quick review of the first book in the series, which I read late last year, and re-read early this year for the 2011 Reading Challenge.
Title: Ravishing in Red
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Jove Books/ The Berkley Publishing Group
Year Published: February 2010
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of The Rarest Blooms series
On the Back cover:
The Domino requests that Mr Kelmsley meet him at The Two swords in Brighton two nights hence to discuss a matter of mutual benefit.
Hoping to clear her dead father’s name, Audrianna Kelmsleigh decides to respond to the advertisement placed by the mysterious “Domino”. Armed with her cousin’s pistol, she takes a room at the two Swords Coaching Inn. But the handsome man of commanding sensuality who shows up is not the Domino at all, but Lord Sebastian Summerhays – one of her father’s persecutors – who has been lured by the same advertisement. When Audrianna’s pistol accidentally fires, the situation becomes mortifyingly public …
There is only one way out of the scandal that erupts, and so these two passionate and headstrong adversaries find themselves joined in a marriage of necessity. Expecting a practical alliance, Audrianna quickly discovers she is helpless to resist Sebastian’s seductive persuasions as he teaches her the meaning of erotic desire. But she remains determined to exonerate her father, even if it means risking her life, her marriage – and her heart …
In my books …
I’ve always have a soft spot for heroes named Sebastien (or Sebastian). The few I’ve come across, in books of course, are rather intense, impassioned man of action. And Summerhays is no exception. In fact, this book works primarily because of him, even though the series revolves around the women.
Audrianna comes across as naive, and impetuous most of the time, and although she grew up a little towards the end of story, it was Summerhays and his circle of friends, and his brother, who captured my attention and held my interest in the development of the story. I already liked the Duke (Tristan) and the mystery surrounding Hawkswell’s missing bride promises to be an intriguing second installment.
I’m thankful there isn’t the usual big-MIS that’s inherent in a lot of romance novels. Instead, what Ms Hunter wove into the story – the jealousy and possessiveness Sebastien feels towards his brother, whom Audrianna shares her confidences and smiles with, the guilt, anger and resentment each brother harbours in his heart, thinking that the other is so much more worthy of the title – are rather contemporary in its resemblance to a dysfunctional family struggling to return to normalcy after a tragic accident.
As family loyalty and love seems to be the focus of the story, the contrast between Audrianna’s and Sebastien’s families and the way they react to scandal and tragedy created an interesting emotional angle. As did their very different attitudes towards their relationship.
Reading this book only whetted my appetite for the rest of the series. So I was really glad that I held out so I could purchase the first two books together. Really liked how this book ended, with the promise for more. Daphne and ‘Lizzie’ intrigued me the most amongst the women.
IMB Rating: 4.0, Really liked it