Lessons from a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0451-22879-6
With a title like this, most readers will expect a hot, sexy romance, and the author delivers that along with a rather humorous story with not just one romance, but two.  When you read the back and realize that the primary couple is already married, one wonders how this can fill a 400-page book.  After all, they are already involved.  But the author does it and does it well.  Lessons from a Scarlet Lady is one you don’t want to miss!

Brianna Northfield is the new Duchess of Rolthven and her husband, Colten, is both handsome and formidable.  Brianna fell in love at first sight and has learned a lot about her husband in a short time.  But she wants more…she wants love both in and out of the bedroom.  And she is certain Colten is holding back in the bedroom.  What happens there is nice but nothing like what she was hoping.  Brianna wants more than a traditional society marriage.  She sets out to discover how to do this, and comes across a scandalous little book written by an ex-courtesan.  Her advice is both on how to keep a man happy in the bedroom AND how to hold onto a man in general.  Her advice gives Brianna pause (after all, she is a gently-bred young woman) but also pushes her daring side.  She experiments and explores many of the chapters with Colten and realizes that the lady knows her stuff.  Colten is intrigued, amused, utterly captivated and at the same time, completely confused as to how his wife has discovered this side of life without his tutelage.

This leads to a bit of a misunderstanding but the author handles it with pizzazz, never falling for the drawn out non-communication plot line.  Brianna is a great heroine and Colten matches her both in and out of the bedroom.  The vulnerability he shows is wonderful and melts the heart of the reader, especially given that this is a man who was raised to be a pompous, stuffy duke.  Their interactions brought both smiles and warm feelings.

The secondary tale is equally as intriguing and interwoven within Brianna and Colten’s story.  Brianna’s best friend is Rebecca Marston, a miss in her second season.  Their other friend Arabella Smythe is the new Countess of Bonham, she having married shortly before Brianna.  They too share the book with Brianna, especially after she talks of her absolute success in the bedroom.  Now this is quite scandalous to Rebecca, who doesn’t even fully understand what happens in the bedroom, but she is determined. Rebecca has turned down numerous suitors in the hopes of bringing one up to scratch.  And that man is none other than Colten’s brother, Robert Northfield.  Robert is the reigning rake of the season, having been determined to live his life carefree and without the responsibility forced upon Colten when their father died earlier than expected.  As the third son, he really has many more choices.  He is rich in his own right and while not totally debauched, his reputation is one of easy seduction and no dependability.

There is much more to Robert than he lets on.  He actually is quite responsible, with multiple things he does behind the scenes.  He is a partner at times with his brother Damien in working for the Crown.  Damien is part of the War Office and spends most of his time in Europe.  Robert uses his talents with mathematics and languages and serves as a code breaker.  Of course, no one knows this. 

Rebecca is attracted to Robert and sees something in him that others don’t.  She sees a man who she wants as a husband and she sets out to get him.  He shies off at first, but he is equally intrigued and discovers he is more ready to bite the marriage bullet than he thought.  But theirs is a romance laden with many barriers, the major one being a misunderstanding Robert had with Rebecca’s father, who now sees him as totally unacceptable.  Their romance is fun, sexy and when Rebecca puts her mind to using the book, utterly enjoyable.

This book is very explicit.  Yet, it is not filled with page after page of purple prose.  The scenes are part of the story and add to it.  I thoroughly enjoyed this tale.  Damien is interesting and plays a major role.  I hope he gets a story of his own soon.  It is not often a writer can merge two stories using the same plot and have two equally entertaining tales, but Emma Wildes has done it to perfection in Lessons from a Scarlet Lady.   

--Shirley Lyons

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