BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Mary Balogh's The Secret Mistress.
In a time unlike any other, a family you’ll never forget . . . Meet the Huxtables—three headstrong sisters and their dashing brother—each searching for love that’s always a shocking indiscretion away. . . . In her magnificent new novel, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh sweeps us into a world of scandal and intrigue—glittering Regency England—and introduces the youngest Huxtable: Stephen, the only son. Here Stephen will risk his reputation and his heart as he enters a scandalous liaison with the infamous beauty intent on seduction. But when passion turns the tables on them both, who can say who has seduced whom?
He must be wealthy, wellborn, and want her more than he wants any other woman. Those are the conditions that must be met by the man Cassandra Belmont chooses for her lover. Marriage is out of the question for the destitute widow who stands accused of murdering her husband and must now barter her beauty in order to survive. With seduction in mind, she sets her sights on Stephen Huxtable, the irresistibly attractive Earl of Merton and London’s most eligible bachelor. But Stephen’s first intriguing glimpse of the mysterious, alluring Lady Paget convinces him that he has found the ideal woman to share his bed. There is only one caveat. This relationship fueled by mutual pleasure must be on his terms.
As the two warily circle each other in a sensual dance of attack and retreat, a single night of passion alters all the rules. Cassandra, whose reputation is already in tatters, is now in danger of losing the one thing she vowed never to give. And Stephen, who wants Cassandra more than he has ever wanted any woman, won’t rest until she has surrendered everything—not as his mistress—but as his lover and wife. . . .
Balogh continues her chronicle of the Huxtable family in this so-so Regency. Stephen Huxtable, earl of Merton, is dashing, wealthy and unattached, which makes him a juicy target for widow Cassandra Belmont, but she soon learns that heartless seduction is not as easy as she d hoped. As Stephen begins to probe her past, they find themselves actually falling in love. Surprisingly for a Regency romance, Balogh tackles themes like alcoholism, domestic violence, miscarriage and female independence. Cassandra s mistrust and vulnerability is understandable, and Stephen is a surprisingly mild, modern type who seems miscast as a Regency hero. While their conflict is believable she fears a loss of freedom, he fears that she will never be able to trust the conclusion feels overly contrived. Fans of the series will enjoy, though genre purists may find something off about the modern sensibilities.