Kissing the Bride

Led Astray by a Rake

The Lily and the Sword

Mistress of Scandal

The Rose and the Shield

A Most Sinful Proposal
by Sara Bennett
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-06-133917-2
A Most Sinful Proposal lives up to its name. This book is a delightful romp of a regency romance.

The premise is an interesting one. Marissa Rotherhild has just graduated from Miss Debenhamís Finishing School and is now on the prowl for a husband. She and her friends, who call themselves the Husband Hunters Club, decide that they are not going to conform to the dictates of society and will marry only for love. Marissa sets her sites on George Kent, a happy-go-lucky gentleman who appears to share Marissaís interests, especially her dislike of botany. She hopes that by marrying him, sheíll horrify her parents who are well-respected botanists and who have always put their love of botany before their daughter.

George invites Marissa to a weekend party at his family home of Abby Rose Manor and Marissa accepts, hoping to seal the deal and get a proposal from George, marry him and then move far, far away from her absent-minded parents.†So you can imagine how irritated and confused Marissa is when she starts falling for Georgeís older brother, Lord Valentine Kent, who is Englandís leading authority on roses.

Valentine Kent is a studious widower whose lifeís work is tracking down the legendary Crusaderís Rose, which was brought to England by his ancestors from - you guessed it - the Crusades. The rosebush had been in his family for generations before it was dug up and burned by a relative who was tired of the attention the rose was getting. Valentine receives some of his fatherís papers from a friend of the previous Lord Kent. These papers hold clues about who might have also brought home the Crusaderís Rose. Now Valentine is hot on the trail of the rose again, along with his friend Jasper. But heís not alone in the pursuit of the rose. Baron Augustus Von Hautt also wants to find the rose, but not to bring it back into popularity in England. Von Hautt wants revenge on Valentine for a mysterious wrongdoing. Von Hautt feels that stealing the rose out from under Kent will break him.

Valentine is ready to go after the rose when Marissa turns up in his home for Georgeís party, only George has forgotten he invited her and he isnít there. In George's absence, Valentine and Marissa develop feelings for each other, which proves problematic for both parties. Valentine is afraid to fall for anyone else after the disaster of his first marriage and Marissa came to the manor to seduce Valentineís brother. Now these two would-be love birds need to figure out what it is each of them wants and must also find the Crusaderís Rose before Von Hautt beats them to it.

A Most Sinful Proposal starts out a little slow, but picks up after about chapter five. I found the pacing to be solid, and really enjoyed the story once I became immersed in it.

The characters are colorful and well developed.†Set at the beginning of the Victorian Era, the British countryside setting is lovely and the incorporation of botany into the story line makes the story fresh and engaging. Also, the usage of the rose as a common goal helps bring the lead characters together as lovers and as a team.

Valentine and Marissa as a couple are believable and fun to watch. The chemistry between them is believable and captivating. Some of the traditional views on the loss of oneís virginity, as well as the need to keep up appearances with the bourgeois, get tossed out the window in this novel, giving the story a saucy warmth. However, the traditional views on marriage still play an important role later on in the story and serve to muddy the waters for this vibrant couple.†

The supporting characters are delightful, especially Marissaís grandmother, Lady Bethany. Her liberal views and adamant refusal to become a respectable and conservative elderly member of society are endearing. I found myself rooting for her through the entire story.†

Even the villain of the story is full of surprises. I wonít go into what those surprises are, but they do add an interesting dynamic to the story. That dynamic, well, Iím on the fence about it. I canít make up my mind if the way the villainís story line unfolds is a cop out or not, but this potential flaw is minor.

The love scenes are frequent enough to be satisfying and they are varied enough that I† never knew what was coming next, which was a definite plus.†It and helped keep the book spicy and helped to keep me engaged as a reader.

The only complaint I have with A Most Sinful Proposal is how long both Marissa and Balentine take to get over their respective hangups and just go with the good thing they clearly have between them. After a while, watching the two of them hem and haw over their problems became a tad tiring.

Roses abound in this novel and just like the Crusader's Rose, I found A Most Sinful Proposal to be colorful, romantic, and worth pursuing to the very end.

--Lindsey Seddon

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