Oh, I just loved this book. Loved. Love, love, love, love, love. I don’t have enough loves to explain how much I loved it.
This book started on page one. There’s no set up. No back story. No wading through a bunch of boring, half irrelevant content just to get into the book. It simply starts and the heroine, Nora, is meeting the Hero, Julius, only a few pages in. I was pulled in and barely put it down for the first 200 page, and only then because I had to.
Nora is an Earls daughter who is sent to America to find a husband, quickly, before word of her scandalous affair with her artist boyfriend, Robert, makes it across the pond. But Nora doesn’t want any old husband she wants Robert. So her plan is to find a ridiculous suitor, even more inappropriate than Robert, in the hopes her father will summon her back to London.
Enter Julius. Who is absolutely outrageous and unsuitable and seemingly ridiculous. Their initial meeting is hilarious and Joanna Shupe captures his supposed persona perfectly by introducing him while he’s drunk and eating dinner atop a horse inside a ballroom on his birthday. He’s slurring his speech, waving around a champagne bottle, and making obscene gestures. And most importantly, agrees to Nora’s plan without argument, then summarily passes out and falls off his horse. I was laughing out loud at the end of chapter one.
Nora foolishly and naively believes this singular impression of Julius, along with the gossip about him. And while he does have a flare for the dramatic as a bachelor, he turns out to be totally different as a fiancée, even a fake one. He has his own agenda, so he needs to be accepted by society and manages to accomplish that rather quickly, to Nora’s dismay.
While Julius is respectably weaving his way into society, Nora just wants to be ruined. But no matter how hard she tries, the tides simply won’t turn in her favor. Unlike other books where the heroines want adventure without the consequences, Nora wants the consequences and ends up having a bit of adventure trying to reap them. Only everything goes… right. Everything works in her favor to protect her and keep her from being compromised, to her everlasting misery. In fact, her greatest protector is Julius, who has no intention of letting her ruin herself even though that’s basically what he signed up for. And that’s a big part of what makes him so great.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that these two actually communicate with each other. They openly acknowledge that this thing is happening between them and they don’t know what to do about it. They both have these plans and ideas about what they do and don’t want their futures to be and being together is simply not an option unless they change everything they believe about themselves. Do they tell each other they’re falling in love? No. Of course not. But that’s pretty true to life, isn’t it? But they do admit it to themselves. They’re aware it’s happening. They can’t fight it. And they’re both scared by what it means and how it would feel if they reached out and grasped it or how much it would hurt if they didn’t. And that is the part they do share with each other.
I love that their feelings develop incrementally through out the book. It’s not a case of insta-love or even insta-realize. They’re falling and they feel it and they have all the hopes and fears that come along with that. And all these moments where they’re comprehending and contemplating and dreading and dreaming and dying inside and coming alive all at the same time, we get to witness it as readers. We’re pulled right in and the intensity of their emotions, those feeling of love and desire and desperation are palpable, making the tension in this book absolutely phenomenal. Feels. So. Many. Feels.
This book is smoldering. And not because of frequent sex. There were only two kisses, one almost-sex scene, and only one full sex scene, which was lengthy and very hot. But every other moment is building this romance and the connection between them. The pull they feel that becomes unbearable to resist and how it impacts their lives and decisions. All of that is what makes it smoldering.
And when these two finally, finally get together it’s so hot. It’s this slow burn that just melts your insides. So easy to imagine how they’re burning for each other. So clear how much they want each other in this lusty, romantic, infatuated way. I can’t think of another novel I’ve read recently where the hero and heroine want each other so badly. Where that pull was so strong. Just that need to connect physically while they fall head over heels in love.
I honestly thought it was perfection. When I say I want something steamy, this is what I mean. This is how I want a romance to feel. It’s the perfect balance of heat and love.
I could go on and on about this book. I could talk about the plot or the other boyfriend (who is really a non-issue, in case you’re worried about it) or Julius’ reasons for going along with the sham engagement, but none of it mattered to me. These things moved their romance along. It was well written and interesting. But the romance was the star here and it was done so well. I’m not going to stop thinking about this book for a long time. It’s going on my favorites shelf. I can’t wait to reread it over and over again and read every one of Joanna Shupe’s books.