It is whispered behind the fans of London's dowagers and in the corners of fashionable ballrooms that scandal follows willfully wild Lady Beatrix Lennox wherever she goes.
Three years before, the debutante created a sensation by being found in a distinctly compromising position. Now, the ton has branded her as unmarriageable, her family has called her a vixen, and Beatrix sees no reason not to go after what and who she wishes.
And she wants Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, the handsome Earl of Spade. Beatrix, with her brazen suggestions and irresistibly sensuous allure, couldn't be more different from the earl's ideal future bride. Yet Beatrix brings out a wildness in the earl he has tried to deny far too long. Still, he's not about to play love's game by Lady Beatrix's rules. She may be used to being on top in affairs of the heart, but that will soon change.
After reading James's newest offering (following Fool for Love), some might be tempted to call her "the historical Jennifer Crusie." In this book, as in her previous ones, her flawed, outrageous and sometimes willfully blindered characters stumble through obstacle courses erected through their own misapplied judgments, making readers hoot with self-recognition every blundering step of the way. Very pregnant Lady Rawlings, once known as Infamous Esme for her wild affairs, has decided to renounce scandal for the sake of her child-a goal too often thrown off track by her passion for the formerly upright Marquess Bonnington, who resides on her estate disguised as her gardener despite her attempts to fire him. In contrast, Esme's houseguest, Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, seeks a little scandal, but not so much that his Parliamentary career would be put in jeopardy-which rules out a tryst with the dramatically ruined minx Lady Bea, another of Esme's guests. A faked affair, a trumped-up engagement and an unfortunate encounter with a stubborn goat snowball into a hilarious yet sharp war between love and respectability. Punctuating her story with spot-on lines like "She had felt very a la mode in her chamber, but now she felt dismally overdressed, like a dog wearing a sweater," James gives readers plenty of reasons to laugh. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.