*4.5 stars I really liked this one, much better than The Seducer which was also very nice. I loved the fact that we see his POV for a large part of the book and see him pinning after Fleur.
Both MCs were set up strongly, and I read on breathlessly to discover whether Dante could possibly escape his baying creditors, and Fleur her wicked step-father. Why did the book lose me after that, when there are still interesting plot points to come? Perhaps if I'd read the earlier books in the series, I'd be rooting more for Dante: he's certainly very charming (whch is as much of a compliment as my grandmother's saying of a girl she disliked, "well, she does have nice hands"). I won't make fun of her Secret Fear (which is a not unreasonable one) although I think, in fact, Madeline Hunter allows it to come across as if she is making a mountain out of a molehill. I've read a few Madeline Hunters, both hits and misses. The characterisation in this, and the flabby plot lines make it a miss, but that's to underplay Hunter's undoubted ability to set a scene and - in spite of my reservations - to keep the pace going so that I read to the end.
But when he finds out that the backside he fired upon is none other than his brother's ex-fiance, Fluer, he realizes he has bigger problems.
I stumbled upon it quite by accident (it is the fourth book in the Seducers series after all, and I hadn't read the first three installments) but I'm so glad I did. It is honestly one of my favorite romance novels that I've ever read. I loved the old-fashioned simplicity of this statement; it brought to mind a famous opening line about all single men of good fortune being in want of a wife ;) Anyhoo, here are some more examples of these great chapter openers Hunter has sprinkled throughout the novel: "The women of English society could bicker and argue with the best of them, but on one point they had always been in total agreement" (10). And: "Loving a good woman provokes change in even the least angelic of men" (355). I love it when historical romances have that old-fashioned quality to the writing and have authentic dialogue between the characters that rings true to the time period. Dante is up to his eyeballs in debt and could use a rich wife like Fleur. Unfortunately, Dante is the most seductive man in England and can seduce any woman. I love that Fleur has a true purpose in life-her Grand Project that is the true pinnacle of all her charitable schemes.
A known rake and a man with both handsome face and body, Dante Duclairic, younger brother of Viscount Laclere, is offered a "white marriage" by Laclere's former fiancee, Fleur Monley, in exchange for her paying off all his debts and he providing protection for her. It makes for interesting reading how Hunter transforms Dante--who had regular relations just to slack his lust--into a husband who yearns for the intimate emotional connection with his wife--and no other woman. "Loving a good woman provokes change in even the least angelic of men." At one point Fleur decides to confide a big dream of hers to Dante--building something monumental--something daring and with risk of either financial success or ruin. She tells Dante that she'd like to sometime hear his life's purpose.
Fleur and Dante's marriage comes about because she has an inheritance she wants to protect and he is in debtor's prison. Since she has the money he needs and she wants a marriage in name only which would allow Dante to continue his hedonistic lifestyle, they forge an agreement.
Wonderful love story between two very unlikely characters.