Despite the contentious, destructive marriage of her now deceased parents, Lady Marissa Hawkstone, who once rejected true love, decides to seek it out after she sees the loving relationship her brother Sebastian, the Marquis of Coldstone, has with his new wife Beatrice. As her first season comes to a close, everyone anticipates her engagement to the attentive Lord Rutherford, but he is secretly only attracted to her dowry and an increased allowance from his father. Maitland Spencer, the fifth Duke of Lyttelton and one of the six Libertine Scholars accidentally overhears the cad bragging about his real motivations while making love to his mistress.
At one point Maitland considered Marisa as a possible mate, but his randy feelings towards her scares him off. Yet the choice is taken from him when at the same ball the two are drugged and end up naked together in one of the bedrooms in Lord Dunmire’s house. The Duke does the honorable thing and marries his best friend’s sister.
Maitland, also known as the Cold Duke, lives a very regimented life, especially in regards to his sexual relations which he only allows to occur once every three days. In this way he can keep his passions under control so he doesn’t end up like his deceased disease ridden monstrous father who resorted to rape in order to satisfy his needs. Unfortunately, Marisa, although a virgin, is not such an innocent having witnessed various acts by her rakish brother. While Maitland is content to leave his new bride alone on their wedding night, Marisa has other ideas and enters his room to seduce him into his husbandry duty. Maitland’s lustful reaction to her beauty horrifies him and the Duke vows to ignore her charms until an appropriate amount of time has passed. She doesn’t understand why he rejects her advances and thinks there must be something wrong with her. Both seek Sebastian for advice, although the Marquis feels uncomfortable discussing his sister’s sex life.
How the two come to terms with married life is complicated by the continued search for the woman seeking to destroy the lives of the six friends. While the villainess has been ultimately unsuccessful in the first three volumes of the Disgraced Lord Series, she is happy with her results in book four, A Whisper of Desire, envisioning further revenge against the two remaining bachelors.
If book one had too few plot details, this story is jammed full of twists and turns. Of the books thus far, this one really dwells on the seedier sides of life, and includes erotica usually reserved for a different genre. On the plus side, the reader gets to discover more about the six Libertine Scholars and their spouses as well as being introduced to some new characters who will play a role in future novels in the series. However, this book is not a happily ever after Regency Romance since it includes some unfortunate heart wretching events which threaten to mar the lives of those involved.
Despite the chock full plot, the author Bronwen Evans still has a tendency to repeat her message, first through thoughts then through repeated explanations to other characters. She also continues to gloss over the reality of the Regency era with modern dialogue and opinions which don’t fit the times. Not only are some of the events over the top, there is simply too much action for one book and it gets a bit overwhelming at times. Yet, despite the flaws, I think this is the best book so far. While the reader usually is safe in believing “alls well that ends well”, Evans leaves us with some doubts as to whether all the friends will survive through the end of the series. Three and a half stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.