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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sense & Sensuality by Alicia Quigley

Book cover: Sense & Sensuality by Alicia Quigley
Last year I read an historical romance called ‘A Duchess Enraged’ which focused on the relationship between Adam, the Duke of Gravesmere and Allegra, the young woman he’d been forced to marry by his father. I didn’t warm much to either of the protagonists, but I enjoyed some of the secondary characters more, notably Adam’s widowed sister Caroline (Lady Eskmaine), and the rake causing mischief between Adam and Allegra, Lord Gresham. There was obviously some sort of spark between Caroline and Lord Gresham (Tristan). Caroline was a far better match for Tristan intellectually, they sparred verbally and also enjoyed outwitting each other where possible. Although Tristan tried to cause problems in the Gravesmeres’ marriage, he began to soften his cynical stance towards the end of the story, and you wondered if there was hope for him to change his dissolute ways. 'Sense & Sensuality' is Caroline and Tristan’s tale. Please note that this story is not in any way related to 'Sense & Sensibility' by Jane Austen.

Lord Gresham retired to the continent after his scandal-making involvement with the young Duchess of Gravesmere came to an end, but he’s beginning to want to go home. He has become bored of his life, and on more than one occasion he’s thought about Caroline, and wondered how she fares. Upon his return home he is lucky enough to bump into her at an evening soiree and it’s just as he has remembered between them, there’s a definite spark. He is not welcomed by Caroline’s brother, or her sister in law, but he gets a warmer reception from the lady herself.
‘A deep voice cut through her thoughts.
“How pleasant to see you again, Lady Eskmaine.”
 
Caroline hesitated. The voice was familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it; it made her both uncomfortable and oddly excited.’
28 year old Caroline has been a widow now for four years. She’s a devoted mother and the dependable member of her family (compared to her hotheaded brother and scatterbrained sister in law). She has begun to chafe against this expectation, feeling like she’s considered old before her time. Caroline has just been tasked with taking a distant cousin into society because she’s the most appropriate person but for once she wants to do something for herself, rather than for her family.
“Everyone treats me as though I care for nothing but being a paragon of virtue, and am merely a creature of duty without a thought but to care for my family, and my son’s estates. I am tired of being thought of only as a mother, and a daughter, and a sister-in-law, and the sensible one who must act as a chaperone, as another female not much younger than I enjoys herself. I want something for myself as well. Is that so wrong?”
In fact, she has decided to take a lover... and she has somebody in mind. Somebody who she feels more than a spark of attraction for, a man who is famed for his prowess as a lover, is unlikely to turn her down and will never be interested in marriage because men like him never are.  She only hopes he will be willing to keep things discreetly quiet.
“You are very handsome, my lord, and all the town knows you have a great deal of experience in these matters. It is my hope, if your desire to make mischief truly lies in the past, that I can trust in your discretion.” 
“Discretion is not something I have been renowned for in my amours, but for you, I believe I could muster some,” he replied.
Caroline isn’t wrong in her estimation. Lord Gresham is very happy to consent to a liaison with her, and a scorching affair quickly ensues, but soon he finds that it’s unlike any of his previous affairs. He has a great respect for Caroline’s intelligence and good qualities aside from her physical attractiveness, and he enjoys the time that they spend with each other just talking as they seem to understand one another easily and have a compatible sense of humour. However, Caroline has no intention of letting things get too cosy between them. Although she is strongly attracted to Gresham, she knows that he is notorious for having many lovers so she doesn’t want to allow herself to get too attached to somebody who will undoubtedly move on to pastures new. In addition, she’s in a very fortunate position financially. As a widow who has provided the heir to the estate and has her own private funds, there is no need to marry again, and in fact, a lot of risk in doing so as her husband would have control over her finances.

What Caroline hasn’t taken into account is how unlike Gresham’s previous lovers she is; they have been attractive but no match for him intellectually. She has much offer him in terms of companionship, if he’s reached the stage in life where he wants to settle down. The main sticking point will be whether she can be made to believe that he would ever want to confine himself to one woman.

I enjoyed this book more than ‘A Duchess Enraged’. The characters were more well-rounded and I found I liked the protagonists a lot. Caroline was an intelligent heroine, who was keeping a hot-blooded temperament under wraps and was fed up of being dutiful while nobody cared for her needs, and Tristan was a rake who no longer wanted to keep flitting from woman to woman now he’d found one who understood him. They were nicely compatible for each other, having a similar sense of humour, which I very much enjoyed, and unlike Caroline’s other admirers Tristan seemed to appreciate the woman she was rather than the woman he thought she was.

There were some interesting ideas touched in the book, such as whether a rake can be trusted to change his ways, whether it’s worth the risk for a widow to remarry, and how illegitimate children could be prevented and if that doesn’t work, cared for.  We see more of Adam and Allegra in this book, two years down the line from the first book and blissfully in love.  Adam is still tiresomely hot-headed, but both he and particularly Allegra seemed matured from their tale.

One word of warning as regards this story, as you may have guessed from the title of the book and the nature of the plot, there are sex scenes, fairly spicy ones. If you don’t like sex scenes I think you’d better off steering clear of this story as although this couple have a relationship which is more than just sexual, there is a lot of sex. For those who don’t mind sex scenes in their historical romances I’d recommend this book. Caroline seems to have surprisingly few qualms about taking a lover and the ending stretched believability a little as things seemed quite rushed but aside from these quibbles I found this an entertaining read and I’d rate it at 4 stars.

4 star read

*I received an e-book of this story from the author for my honest review.

4 comments:

  1. I love it when a story establishes a connection on more than one level for the characters. There is a risk trusting when bad reputations are involved. I'll have to keep this one in mind.

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    1. Definitely, trust would be a big issue. I think there was a lot of risk for widows in general, men had such power, if you were a widow with sufficient money it would be a big decision to remarry. I was glad to see that there was more between them than just sexual attraction, because this is quite a spicy read, but there was a deeper relationship there too.

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  2. Sounds interesting. There are not too many stories out there about widows/widowers finding love again. Although there are mentions of many of them having affairs as side stories in books I have read. I will add this to my wish list.

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    1. I don't think I've read that many with widowed protagonists either, Sheila.

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