Published by Avon Books on 8/28/2012
Genres: Adult, Romance
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There is improper, there is scandalous... and then there is Madeline Valdan.
To the world, Madeline Valdan is a scandalous courtesan, with society's most eligible gentlemen at her feet. But no one knows her shocking secret: she has never experienced the most intimate touch of "any" man. So she astonishes the "ton" by telling them the truth . . . and by announcing the auction of her virginity to the highest bidder.
Handsome and disciplined, Gabriel Huntford knows his time is best spent hunting down criminals from the darkest corners of London. As a Bow Street Runner investigating his sister's death, he has no desire to join London's strutting peacocks in this competition when there are more important tasks at hand.
Now, his quest leads him to one of Madeline's "suitors," so he agrees to help this sinful woman. But what begins as a business arrangement quickly turns into something more . . . and love blooms with a passion neither one expected.
So this book was… umm… it was… Actually I’m sitting here, trying to find the words to get this review started and I’m all… wait a minute… what??? See, to me, this book is masquerading as a romance novel. It’s got the mask on, it’s wearing a full ball gown, it’s spinning around with the music going “Look at me aren’t I such a pretty romance novel” and then, BAM! that dress comes off and you’re left holding a pair of shoes and a pretty mask while murder and mystery unfold in front of you. Seriously go back and read that blurb from the back cover, I’ll wait, go on, read it. Okay, now go look at the cover again. Half naked guy, scantily clad (remember this is a historical romance, she is scantily clad) woman. Right, so if you’re like me, you’re expecting a basic romance plot. There is nothing that even hints that this book might be more. Madeline is basically a British Mata Hari. She has worked for the government for the past 10 years stealing secrets and now they have let her go. Taking the tiny amount of payment the government gives her, she strives to make her life better in the only way she knows how. She does play a courtesan, is truly a virgin, and she does auction herself off to the highest bidder. (Look, the back of the book was right!) Gabriel is sort of a PI, in that he is for hire, but it seems that he’s more cop than PI. His sister was murdered years ago and he is still searching for her killer. When another murder happens that is exactly like his sister’s, he wants to jump at the chance to run it. His boss, instead, pulls him and sends him to Madeline. She wants him to look into the suitors/bidders to make sure they can pay up at the end. (A girl’s gotta have her priorities!) He realizes this is the perfect cover for him to do a little covert work as well. The suspects he has from his sister’s murder are also some of the bidders for Madeline. As their pasts start to come out and they start to realize how much they can help each other, the sexual tension between them rises. In this, the book does follow the tried and true romance plot. That said, as an avid reader of romance novels, this book was not steamy enough for me. I want to fall in love with the characters and feel those pangs of lust with them. I want my romances to cause me to blush when I read them. I just didn’t get that with this book. The handful of sex scenes were meh for me. I honestly could have skipped those pages and not missed them at all. If I were to rate this book purely on the romance part I would give it a 2. Anyway, like I said, I did not see this book as a true romance. The problem was that, for me, all you just read was more of a background to what I really enjoyed, the mystery part of the book. Why was his sister murdered? Why is the murderer back now? How does Madeline’s life fold into his investigation? Why is she being targeted now? The more I read, the less I cared about the romance between Madeline and Gabriel. I kept turning the pages because I wanted to get all those questions answered. Seriously, I started the book at 7PM and read until it was finished. I was left guessing who the murderer was till the last few chapters. When you read as much as I do, it is no easy feat to keep me guessing up until then end. I felt that Randol could have easily given this book a different title and cover and it would have attracted a whole different crowd. As a mystery I would easily give it a 4. Now I’m running into the problem of rating this book on a whole. This book was published as a romance and for me is just didn’t fulfill my fantasies of what I want in a romance. That said, I enjoyed this book quite a lot and because of that I’m going to give it a 3.5 for a final rating.
Disclaimers: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review. Blurb and photo source courtesy of Goodreads. *If you decide to purchase this book through any of these links, we do receive a small monetary kick-back that helps fund this blog.