|It seems increasingly common for historical romances to have 19th-century British settings. While set in England during this time period, Leslie LaFoy’s latest novel has a touch of the exotic that sets it apart. At its heart, however, is a compelling couple, which makes a story in any setting enjoyable. If a book can be compared to a dance, then The Perfect Temptation is a smooth, seductive waltz, with only the occasional misstep.
Aiden Terrell agrees to help his friend Barrett Stanbridge recover some stolen silver. Before Aiden can begin this investigation, he and Barrett are interrupted by a woman who wants a bodyguard for her pupil. Alexandra (Alex) Radford, the woman in question, needs help. She is a tutor to 10-year-old Mohan, son of an Indian raja. Power struggles in India have put Mohan in danger. With one bodyguard dead and another badly injured, Alex seeks protection until Mohan’s new guards can arrive.
Aiden and Alex experience an immediate chemistry. Aiden recognizes it as desire, which he is reluctant to explore. Alex feels uncomfortable in Aiden’s company. In spite of her discomfort, Alex agrees to accept Aiden’s protection. As the story continues, Aiden knows that Alex doesn’t trust him completely, and Mohan’s spoiled nature complicates the situation. But everything changes when Aiden protects Alex from two attackers.
Aiden’s initial behavior is the biggest hurdle in The Perfect Temptation. His interference in Alex and Mohan’s lives is hard to swallow. While Aiden sees himself as helpful, he comes across as high-handed, as in this quotation: “She wasn’t going to regret letting him past her reserve. He’d make sure of it. In the end, Alexandra Radford was going to think he was the very best thing that had ever happened to her.” This is even more frustrating when Aiden understands Mohan almost immediately, realizing that Mohan has simply been bored. If that were truly the case, wouldn’t Alex have recognized it since she has known Mohan for years?
Once Aiden and Alex’s relationship takes center stage, however, the frustration fades as a romantic story unfolds. Part of the pleasure comes in seeing Aiden recognize Alex’s strengths. Another part lies in seeing them discover their feelings. They suit each other well, and their dialogue is often lively and witty.
As for the exotic aspects of the story, the information and detail LaFoy provides is fascinating, though I’m not knowledgeable about Indian culture and therefore can’t vouch for its accuracy. There is some overly dramatic wording — “He pressed against the gate of her citadel” — but most of the language is straightforward and smooth.
The positive aspects make this a strong story. It’s the second in a trilogy, though it stands well on its own. In spite of the hero’s initial behavior, Leslie LaFoy’s The Perfect Temptation offers readers a tempting reading experience, one I can easily recommend.