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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kiss of Scandal by Isabel Roman

Kiss of Scandal by Isabel Roman
Publisher: Ravenous Romance
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Hot
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

In the wreckage of a friend's death, Countess Katria Markova finds her perfectly ordered life irrevocably altered. Russian politics proves more dangerous than the front lines of war, and when her fiance's future is threatened by rumors of treason, their cat-and-mouse game ends. In its place, a political game, one that puts their very lives at stake, begins.

Count Nikolai Orlov will do anything to clear his brother's name. Anything but put Katria in harm's way. Attracted to her from the moment they met, he's spent their time together breaking the wall that surrounds her heart. He wants the passionate woman beneath, wants to shatter her cool exterior.

With her life in danger, Nikolai's only course of action is to exact revenge. From the snowy streets of St. Petersburg to the River Neva's icy depths, they search for the answers to clear Nikolai. But in their search, will they lose each other?

Nineteenth Century Russia appears a whole lot steamier than I expected. Isabel Roman’s ‘Kiss of Scandal,’ is an action-packed and evocative thriller.

Countess Katia’s heart is already gone to Nikolai, but she saves face in a polite parlor room game in which both are too keenly aware of the other. Their relationship is both close and distant, open and secretive. It brings us the initial intrigue, although already, we are aware something unusual, perhaps something criminal, is underway.

Fast paced, ‘Kiss of Scandal’ is a combination of romance, history, and political thriller. At times, it seems like every character, every uncle, every friend and every long, unpronounceably -named supporting role is actually an important character with their own agenda.

The start is puzzling. Pressing on, it all does become clearer. It is a world of Tsars, and the aristocratic jockeying for status and position that goes on around any throne becomes the tapestry behind the tale. The life and love of Katia is the heart and soul of the story. She is a young woman determined to get some control of her own fate. We understand her doubts about her current probable fate, yet cannot help but feel that fortune has landed her in a better situation than she realizes.

This is far more than love story, though. Events conspire to drive Nicolai in a desperate search for vengeance, and to clear his own name. Nicolai, who seems domineering at first, soon becomes ‘a skilled predator,’ in Katia’s eyes. Katia’s concern about him goes beyond emotional attachments, as she wonders about his political involvements. She seeks to know who exactly this man is, even as she is forced to acknowledge her attraction to him. As we have the opportunity to see the world from Nicolai’s eyes as well… we as readers are forced agree with her assessment that he is predatory, strong-willed, and perhaps less than admirable. We wait, hoping for the emergence of some extraordinary good traits as balance.

Some explanations of feeling or thought are too reflective, slowing the pace, yet the story remains compelling and fresh throughout.

Try something a little different; Kiss of Scandal is well-worth reading.