A Taste of Desire
by Beverley Kendall
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-14201-0870-5
The cover notes as a subtitle: “Sharp words are no match for soft lips,” I have to disagree. This novel is full of sharp words and not only do they override any romance, they create a love story where it is difficult to figure out a) what the two people see in each other and b) how they put aside their animosity to ever believe they are in love.

Amelia Bertram is brazen. She is a beauty but she has not been easy to raise and is on the verge of creating scandals that she cannot overcome. Her father has stopped her from eloping with two men who were fortune hunters; men who vacated their pursuit once they realized her fortune would be withheld if they married her. Her father is at his wits end and is determined to travel to America on business. He despairs of what to do with Amelia. He encourages his business partner, a man not too many years older than Amelia, to be her ward while he is off to America.

Thomas Armstrong, a very eligible and sought after viscount, sympathizes with his friend and partner, but wants nothing to do with his daughter. Until that is, the lovely Amelia makes disparaging remarks about his sexual prowess in the middle of a crowded ballroom. He and her father give Amelia a choice – enter a convent or move to the Viscount’s country estate and work for him as his clerk. Ah, sweet punishment…or so Thomas thinks.

Resentful and angry, along with hurt by her father’s apparent lack of feelings for her, Amelia is forced to concede. But she is determined to make Thomas’s life hell and sets off to do just that. She is shocked when in the middle of her temper tantrums; she also recognizes that she is attracted and that sparks seem to fly. Thomas feels the pull too. But he is also angry and determined to make her behave.

The set up of this scenario filled me with groans. There is no way society would assume that Thomas was an apt guardian, even with a companion in the home. His mother, of course, is determined that he marry and sees this as an opportunity. She too disrupts propriety to take off to America, leaving Amelia and Thomas basically alone in the house.

If a reader can ultimately accept the set up, the relationship cannot be ignored. These two fight, they argue, they say mean things to the other. Amelia is always rude, even to her companion. She flirts and teases and makes stupid statements that make her sound like a petulant little girl. Meanwhile, Thomas storms around threatening to spank her, walking into her bedroom to continue arguments and then turns around lusting after her to the point he can’t be in the same room with her.

There are a few other characters thrown in who present issues – jealousy and some information to help the other see things differently. However, they two are drawn into the fights at times. When Thomas’s friend Alex realizes that Thomas is in love, I struggled with groaning out loud. If being vexed and frustrated all the time indicate love, spare me from it.

After some scenes where Amelia is almost compromised and then grows ill, causing Thomas to realize he is in love, the obvious occurs. These two get together prior to marriage and then they have another whole series of misunderstandings and ill conceived courting scenes. By this time, I almost believed they deserved each other…but I really didn’t care.

Beverley Kendall has a good voice and her tale is well paced. There are a few well drawn secondary characters but they are not enough to save the story. My advice is to find another way to quench your hunger and avoid A Taste of Desire.

--Shirley Lyons

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