It is fun when Mary Balogh has a new series out because they usually all come out within a couple of months of each other. I loved the first book in the series so much, First Comes Marriage, that I just went right on to the second.
Baron Montford, Jasper to his friends and well known rake, makes a wager one drunken night – he will seduce and bed Miss Katherine Huxtable. He figured it would be more challenging to seduce an innocent virgin, and he really couldn’t think of another wager that he had not conquered. The next week he finds himself at Vauxhall gardens, and quite easily maneuvers Katherine onto a deserted path…ah yes, we know what is going to happen. Now Katherine has a thing for bad boys. She is the utmost respectable lady in the eyes of the ton and her family, but she has a tiny bit of a wild side, so when Jasper takes her down a deserted path, she cannot resist. And quite quickly she falls for his charm and finds her dress bunched up around her waist. At the last moment, Jasper finds his conscience (gasp!) and decides he cannot go through with the bet…he even tells the gambling hall where the bet was recorded that Katherine gave him a stern set down and it goes down in history as the first wager he loses. Katherine is of course angry that a wager this lewd was made in her name, but she also knows she was not innocent in the matter and finds it a bit humorous. They both go their separate ways and live their lives.
Three years later, she runs into Jasper back in London and immediately remembers the embarrassing night and how quite handsome he is. Jasper is also a bit enthralled and can’t resist making another wager – give him a month and he will make her fall in love with him. She finds it quite absurd and impossible but he makes it his mission to woo her. They waltz together, sit and talk at garden parties alone, and stroll through the park. Everything seems quite simple and nice, and although Katherine does not think she is falling in love (or at least won’t admit it to herself) she does find herself finding a friend in Jasper.
However, things can not stay simple and to complicate matters, Jasper has a half-sister, Charlotte, who he adores. Charlotte’s cousin, Clarence, who is also Charlotte’s part guardian, comes to town. Charlotte is about to turn 18 and is very wealthy, Clarence is single and has quite a bit of a gambling debt. He spreads a vicious rumor that Jasper did bed Kaherine that night three years ago on the deserted path, so Jasper will lose custody of Charlotte, securing Clarence’s place with her. That rumor along with Jasper’s public wooing of Katherine, ruins her name in the eyes of the ton. To save her family’s reputation, and Charlotte, she finds herself accepting Jasper’s proposal of marriage. Jasper and Katherine then must make the wager of their lives – can they find happiness and ultimately love in their new life together?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Katherine has quite a good sense of humor which is refreshing. There are many times where she chooses laughing over whining or being angry with Jasper and his rakish ways. She gets angry and sets him in his place when necessary, but she acts in a very mature manner. Jasper himself is a very fun character – quite the charmer and hellion, but underneath he has a good heart and you find yourself rooting for him. It is hard to resist a character that is always looking at the heroine with half drooping eyelids and and a smirk on his lips.
This series continues to impress me and I am looking forward to reading Meg’s book, At Last Comes Love, out April 28th. The final book in the series, Seducing An Angel, Stephen’s book (the youngest of the Huxtable family) will be out May 19th.
Rating – 4 stars