With the scandalous nature of her birth to live down, Isabella Fairmont dreams of a proper marriage--even if a passionless one. She saves her deepest desires for the novel she dares to pen. But then her courtship with an appropriate suitor is threatened by the sudden attentions of the reclusive Earl of Black...whose pale blue eyes and brooding sensuality are exactly as she described in her book.Publisher: Harlequin, June 2011
Isabella tries to resist the mysterious Earl of Black. Yet as he pursues her, with inexplicable knowledge of her past and kisses that consume her, Isabella fears she will succumb.
If only the earl could tell Isabella the truth. With very real, and treacherous, thieves endangering her life, Black will need to protect Isabella from the very people she trusts the most...
Release Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Genre: Historical Romance
Single Title/Series: SEDUCTION AND SCANDAL is book one in the Brethren Guardians Series.
Cover Thoughts: I'm in love with this cover. Its just proof positive that the Historical Romance genre receives the best covers. What I really love about this cover are the colors. The sunset pinks and plum violets are just stunning. My one dislike: the male cover model. He's not nearly as physically imposing as I imagine Lord Black to be.
Origin: I received an Advanced Review Copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Shrouded in intrigue and scandal, the reclusive Earl of Black is rarely ever seen outside his dark London town house, but someone manages to coax the enigma from his shield of mystery: the young and doe-eyed Isabella Fairmont. No stranger to scandal herself, Isabella has happened upon a fortuitous second shot at life and happiness. However, if she'll grasp this final chance with the courage it deserves remains to be seen.
Raised a simple country girl, Isabella quickly losses her romantic fantasies of London society. Where she was once jealous of her cousin and the colorful gowns and wooing gentlemen, now, after two years of enduring the exaggerated pomp and circumstance, it all leaves much to be desired. Instead, Isabella would love nothing more than to skip the balls and festivities altogether to focus on her true love: her writing. Not necessarily a behavior celebrated by the ton, Isabella's hobby is a closely guarded secret between her and her beloved cousin, Lucy. Even more so now than ever given the eerie intimate and personal nature of the story that's pouring forth from her imagination at this very moment. Death is romancing Isabella. While Lucy finds every word to be swoon-worthy, Isabella is more than an acquaintance of Death's and his presence in her mind and on the page leaves her shivering with both trepidation and fascination.
Black has yearned fiercely from afar for Isabella for two long tortuous years. He craves her with every particle of his being but he can't stand the thought of his trailing scandals tainting the beautifully delicate Isabella. She's been through enough tragedy and to burden her with his own feels wrong. But when an adoring suitor of Isabella's comes perilously close to proposing, Black crashes through his own personal barriers and sets out to claim the woman he loves before he loses her once and for all.
After having witnessed first hand the destructive powers of passion and lust, Isabella yearns simply for a stable and secure marriage. Passion need not be part of the equation. In fact, Isabella is determined that it won't when she sets her cap on a dreary but handsome archaeologist. Having little to nothing in common except for a mutual admiration, Isabella believes that this is a secure match for herself until Lord Black begins his own relentless pursuit. Helpless to control the raging and insatiable hunger that Black ignites within her, Isabella is soon desperate to hide from the man that makes her heart and soul come alive. Lust, as she's learned, is fleeting. Once their burning passion for each other runs its course, Isabella is sure that she'll be left alone just life her mother. Determined to never be the victim of passion, Isabella hides from Black at every opportunity but when a secret organization charged with protecting mankind is rivaled by a faction intent on claiming the power they guard, Isabella will end up relying on Black to not only save her life, but to save her heart as well from the fear that plagues it.
Isabella Fairmont is an intriguing dichotomy of both roots and wings. She's incredibly grounded with not only her desire for reasonable stability but also to be scandal free whilst penning the most romantic, sensual romances that whisk her quite literally into the realm of fantasy. Simply put, Isabella's a complex contradiction. She's a woman in possession of a fiercely passionate heart but her fear born from witnessing love's destructive capabilities forces her most willingly to lock her heart and her nature under chafing harsh bonds. Yet, she still seeks the feel of passion and love through her imagination and her writings. In truth, her heart, body and soul craves the touch of love with such intensity that she's completely unable to control the blossoming desire that erupts for Black. And of course, this intense reaction on her part is also frightening. Isabella is a woman ruled by her fears but it's thrilling to witness her finally let go and seize the happiness that she so rightly deserves in the arms of Black.
Black, a man whose name is synonymous with the darkness it conjures as well as the scandal it tarnishes. It's a perfectly fitting name for this hero as he's a dark but thrilling presence from page one. A member of the Brethren Guardians and protector of mankind, Black is weary from the burden he carries and the bleak emptiness that has become of his life. The only being worth fighting for is Isabella. She's a sparkling radiance that his own cumbersome darkness craves. Refraining at first from pursuing her, Black doesn't want the same life he's endured to be passed on to Isabella or any children that may come of their union. But he's helpless to stop himself or his driving need to possess and claim Isabella as his own when faced with competition. While perhaps selfish, the truth of matter is that Black needs Isabella more than he's ever needed another human being in his life. He knows she can grant him peace while also gifting him with a love he's determined to have for them both.
My Final Thoughts:
SEDUCTION AND SCANDAL is decidedly Gothic with its twisting paranormal surprises and who-done-it flare. Not to mention the entrance of Death himself, a being both mesmerizing and terrifying, he graces the pages in all his black hat and satin caped glory. With gripping intensity, he seduces both the reader and our heroine. And what is Black but a mystery all unto himself and a sinful one at that. Doggedly he pursues the skittish Isabella, wooing her with explosive lust and soul defying passion. Their love is a dark red stain on a black canvas, each color warring with the other for supremacy. Will the darkness of death or the red of passion win?
I don't believe that I've yet to mention the balking stubbornness exuded by Isabella. She's rather determined to live a half life and while she doesn't necessarily describe her wanted future in that light, that's nevertheless what it will be if she continues to reject Black. She's fearful of hunger and poverty, all of which she's survived with nothing but nightmares to show for it. But for this reader, her fears became rather redundant and pathetically desperate. The sad truth is that perhaps if Black had spoke of marriage from the first moment rather than assuming that his courting of Isabella would obviously result in that fact, than there might not have been a story. To me, Isabella was a tease, giving herself to Black, allowing him to cloud her heart with passion only to shun his very existences the next day. It seemed almost routine for them after a while. However, this was my only disappointment in the book.
I must say, the paranormal aspects of this novel are dark and delicious fun. Placing her own spin on Templar mythology, Featherstone breathes romantic life into what is already a fascinating and controversial notch upon the world's historic time line. One that is still remarkably scrutinized today. And while these paranormal twists play a decidedly important role within the plot, it never overshadows the true heart of this novel which is the romance between Black and Isabella.
Finally, there's no denying that after the shocking cliffhanger and the doomed romance of Isabella's cousin Lucy and the lovesick "Duke of Deliciousness", that this reader will be clamoring for book two, PRIDE AND PASSION. A rare Gothic delight amidst a sea of pastels, SEDUCTION AND SCANDAL is a scrumptious treat that's sure to leave you craving much, much more. Enjoy!
Happily Forever After
SEDUCTION AND SCANDAL - June 2011
PRIDE AND PASSION - December 2011