Amanda Briars is nearly thirty, unmarried, and firmly on the shelf. She makes a good living as a novelist, but though she enjoys her independence, she...moreAmanda Briars is nearly thirty, unmarried, and firmly on the shelf. She makes a good living as a novelist, but though she enjoys her independence, she craves the touch of a man. So, taking matters into her own hands, she approaches one of London's most notorious madams, and orders herself a birthday present--a sexy male prostitute. When he arrives, even more gorgeous and sensual than she could have imagined, Jack shows her a pleasure she never imagined existed, though he stops short of taking her virginity.
Publisher Jack Devlin is rather shocked when the author he's come to negotiate with obviously mistakes him for a hired stud--but he can't resist her voluptuous charms. When they meet again, and she discovers the deception, she's understandably upset, but a working relationship blossoms into a friendship that quickly becomes much more.
If I were rating this book on characters alone, it would get six out of five stars. Amanda is a perfect mix of confidence and insecurity, completely convinced of her own undesirability, yet assertive in her professional life. Jack is the bastard son of a nobleman who clawed his way to the top of the publishing world by any means at his disposal. He is very damaged, convinced that he's not what Amanda needs, yet unwilling to let her go. Their chemistry is explosive, and in spite of--or perhaps because of--their initial encounter, their relationship proceeds at a perfectly slow pace. The love scenes are well-done and numerous without feeling excessive. Jack and Amanda are also quite a bit more adventurous than the average couple in historical romance, which I liked quite a bit.
Unfortunately, the plot doesn't always measure up to the high standards set by the characters. The main obstacles to their relationship are Amanda's fear Jack will tire of her and Jack's damaging past, and honestly, those are good ones, more than enough to be the crux of the plot. However, Ms. Kleypas seems to need to throw more and more things in their way, cluttering up the last 1/3 of the book. And just when you think Jack & Amanda will get their HEA, there's yet another issue! This book would have been much improved if the last 50 or so pages had been cut and jumped right into the epilogue.
If you love strong heroines and sexy, damaged alpha heroes, this book is definitely one to check out. Just don't hold the meandering ending against Jack and Amanda.