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For as long as she can remember, Lady Adriana Sutton has adored Colton Wyndham, to whom she has been promised by an agreement of courtship and betrothal since childhood. As a young girl, she was wounded by Colton's stubborn refusal to comply with his father's wishes and by his angry departure. He was too proud and too stubborn to accept a future not of his own choosing. Rather than submit, he fled from his ancestral home for a life of adventure and danger as an officer in the British army.
The years have been immensely kind to Lady Adriana. No longer the plain, thin tomboy Colton had spurned, she has blossomed into an uncommon beauty desired by nearly every eligible bachelor in the land. Yet the only man she desires is the decorated hero who has finally come home to claim his rightful title. Arrogant, unmoved, and seductive as ever, he remains averse to the idea of their betrothal in spite of his growing desire for her.
To demonstrate his belief that love cannot be forced, Colton agrees to court Lady Adriana for ninety days, after which time he will be allowed to keep his precious freedom if he so wishes. But much has changed since he balked at his father's plans. Forced into a courtship with this stunning, spirited woman, who is as different today from the young chit he left behind as spring is to winter, the heroic heart that was once closed to Adriana is moved by her charm, her grace, and her sensuality ... and begins to yield. But a secret from Colton's past may doom their burgeoning love ... even as the treacherous schemes of a sinister rival threaten to steal the remarkable lady from his arms forever.
A lush and spellbinding story of passion and betrayal that grandly sweeps the reader into the magnificent ballrooms and intimate boudoirs of Regency England, The Reluctant Suitor is romance as only the incomparable Kathleen Woodiwiss can deliver it -- a love story that will dwell in the reader's heart and memory forever and stand proudly as one of the author's very best.
The hardcover debut of historical romance doyenne Woodiwiss (The Flame and the Flower) recalls the era of romance writing when a hero could be said to sport his "fleshly horn" or "bold blade of passion" with no trace of irony. Some readers may find the prose a bit overblown ("she strove to unmount the iron-thewed thigh"), but the racy escapades are as entertaining as ever. Prodigal son Colton Wyndham returns to his home in England after fighting in the Napoleonic wars. His father, with whom he had a contentious relationship, has recently died, and Colton is the new Marquess of Randwulf. He enjoys flashing his "dark, shining orbs" at his beauteous neighbor, Lady Adriana Sutton, while in the throes of "manly imagination," "manly awareness" and "manly cravings." Upon discovering that his late father signed a betrothal agreement linking him to Adriana, Colton is torn between rebelling against his father's dictates and succumbing to his desire for Adriana. Adriana, still wounded by Colton's vehement declaration years ago that he would not wed her, fears that Colton will break her heart again and is determined not to fall prey to his charm. The mating dance starts slowly, but the introduction of a poisoning expert; a baby switching; and Colton's lowborn first wife, thought to be dead, keeps the plot lively. The prose is overwrought even by Woodiwiss's standards, but there's plenty here to amuse fans.