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Monday, September 26, 2011

Every Scandalous Secret by Gayle Callen

Every Scandalous Secret by Gayle Callen
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (435 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

He may be the younger brother of a viscount, but Leo Wade is more at ease in London’s gaming halls and ladies’ boudoirs than at tonnish events. Although lately, he’s been consumed by a growing boredom he can’t shake…That is until Leo stumbles upon three society misses trying to steal a scandalous painting from his gentleman’s club and becomes obsessed with pursing a lady unlike any of his acquaintance.

An artist, bluestocking and veritable spinster by anyone’s definition, Susanna Leland never dreamed she and her cousins would find themselves in the eye of a potential scandal. So when she receives an invitation to a country house party she takes it hoping to escape London and divert the suspicious gaze of Mr. Leo Wade. Susanna never expects he’ll follow her!

As the unrepentant rogue and on-the-shelf artist clash, Leo may just have met the one woman immune to his charms, and Susanna may have found the one man she can’t scare off with her intellect. But when the pair are caught in a compromising position and forced to marry, they may just find that the price of trust is well worth every scandalous secret.

Every Scandalous Secret is a hero’s journey from being a person who seems to have no redeeming qualities to becoming a person who loves unconditionally and who has worthy goals and purpose in life. At first this seems to be a story about the ordinary Regency doings... then hints of deeper, more intense, and more fearful issues seep in.

The reader is swept into a unique battle of wits between two very intelligent, determined protagonists and soon feels a chemistry that takes the challenges far afield of the wager concerning a nude painting on display in a gentlemen’s club in London.

Susanna Leland, the cousin of the Duke of Madingley, is well-known as a bluestocking, an artist, and most likely a forevermore spinster. Yet, she is at Lord and Lady Bramsfield’s house party, with other much-younger ladies, shopping for a “suitable” husband. She promised her family (and herself) she would try once more. But she does have “standards”—none of which Mr. Leo Wade seems to meet.

Mr. Leo Wade’s usual pursuits in London have become dull and predictable. His new venture holds promise. He follows Susanna to the house party, wrangles an invitation and sets in to win the wager while having a good time flirting with the women, trying to seduce Susanna, as always avoiding the marriage trap. He feels confident in winning a wager with his two friends Peter Derby and Lord Parkhurst. Little did he know how far Susanna would got to protect her young sister Rebecca and her cousin Elizabeth.

The strict rules of Regency time change things for both Susanna and Leo. They must make the best of what each is sure a BAD situation, but Leo Wade’s sense of honor (that few realize he has) will not allow him to do less than what is expected.

Susanna looks at Leo like an adult would look at an incorrigible child, but her artist eye sees that he is a gorgeous male specimen with wavy blond hair and green eyes that sparkle with mischief and laughter. But her mind also knows he has a scandalous reputation and has no intellectual interests or regard for propriety. She even comes to the conclusion he cannot read. Yet, she feels exhilarated as he attempts to seduce her. She loves trying to outwit him.

Foreshadowing sets the scene for revelations about Leo’s past that are life-changing. Gayle Callen tantalized just enough to keep the reader ever watchful for the significant of clues and hints. Leo’s dark dreams, the coldness he feels around old ruins, and his memories that stay just out of reach create a chilly sense of foreboding.

However, Mr. Callen’s skill in bringing to life an incredible love shared by two most unlikely people is magical. The little things that open up new avenues to this unique love give the reader a vicarious experience through exquisite, earth-shattering love scenes, verbal foreplay, poignant back stories, and an intrepid reaching for the future with confidence that comes from loving and being loved.