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Friday, October 28, 2011

Desired by Nicola Cornick

Desired by Nicola Cornick
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (378 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Tess Darent’s world is unravelling. Danger threatens her stepchildren and she is about to be unmasked as a radical political cartoonist and thrown into gaol. The only thing that can save her is a respectable marriage. But when it comes to tying the knot Tess requires a very special husband – one who has neither the desire nor the ability to consummate their marriage.

Owen Purchase, Viscount Rothbury cannot resist Tess when she asks for the protection of his name. But he has no intention of making a marriage in name only. Will the handsome sea captain be able to persuade the notorious widow to give her heart as well as her reputation into his safekeeping?

Featherbrained, “shallow as a puddle” are misconceptions that Lady Tess Darent cultivates about herself. Three times a widow, Tess is totally disillusioned about the institution of marriage. Her radical reform work, philanthropy, and her intelligence are secret to all except a few, but her “believed” amoral behavior, her extravagance, and her beauty fascinate and keep the Ton furnished with lots of gossip material. No one knows the fear that haunts her nights and controls so many of her actions.

Tess is a strong heroine who does what must be done to take care of those she loves and defenseless women and children who have been wronged at the whims of men. She is a secret crusader sailing under the false colors of a rule-breaking social butterfly that has no concern for her reputation.

Owen Purchase, Viscount of Rothbury, a friend of Tess’s brothers-in-law, is also a favorite subject for the Ton. American-born, an adventurer, and explorer, Owen inherited a title and all the Rothbury holdings in England. Now he tries to steer his way through English Society while working for the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth. His beloved ship “Sea Witch” sits idle in port. He misses his old way of life on the open seas, but he soon finds intrigue enough as he pursues and is pursued by the inscrutable beauty, Lady Tess Durant.

Nicola Cornick weaves a bevy of secondary characters into the story as Owen and Tess come to terms with the horrors and misdeeds of the past in order to meet new threats and challenges that press in and could get them hanged. If you have read other novels by Ms. Cornick, you will get to catch up with some characters you will recognize, like Tess’s sisters, Joanna and Merryn and their husbands Alex and Garrick; Garrick half-brother, Tom Bradshaw and his wife Emma; and her brother Justin Brooke.

The sub-plots and back story add layers of cruel machination and unconscionable misdeeds as well as some efforts made to atone for past sins. The antagonists range from corrupt politicians to warped and perverted peerage. They raise the stakes in conflicts to help create some pulse-pounding scene as Tess comes closer and closer to being trapped. Of course, the despicable artist Melton sets off one of the major turning points that reveals a new facet of the incredible Tess—lots of excitement.

Desired is chock full of delightful and revealing dialogue, subtle humor, and bit-by-bit falling in love scenes that carry the reader along on a tantalizing and sometime scary journey toward a happy-ever-after for the hero and heroine. The unexpected twists and turns keeps one turning pages. A wonderfully entertaining read.