I loved this book! Loved it! For the last few years I've drifted away from reading historicals, but with all the rave reviews regarding this book I thought I had to take the plunge and see what all the fuss was about. And all those glowing reviews are not wrong, IMO--this was one delicious read!
I absolutely adored the heroine in this book--and I'm not one who usually falls for the heroine. But there was something so real, likable and relatable about the character of Lady Calpurnia "Callie' Hartwell, the 28 year old plain, bland, slightly plump, passive, play-by-the-rules spinster. When Callie realized she was tired of being thought of as 'passive' and decided to be more adventurous in her life (to the extreme, at times) and break some rules, that's when the book became un-put-down-able. Her nine rules that she wanted to break started out with "kiss someone--passionately"
. And she knew just who she wanted to kiss--the man who had been on her mind for the past 10 years, the man she'd longed for, renowned rake Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston.
Oh my...Ralston...or Gabriel--however Callie thought of him, he was quite the hero. Wickedly charming, devastatingly handsome, seductive, experienced, adventurous, funny, rule breaking--and so,
out of Callie's league (or so she thinks). And determined not to fall in love--ever. I loved how he called Callie "Empress" and "lovely" I loved, loved, loved
these two as a couple. They had such a spark whenever they were together--their scenes, their dialogue...it was awesome. After Callie broke her first rule with Ralston (such chemistry they had!), she knew he was the one she wanted to break all
the rules with!
And the rules Callie wanted to break! Or I should say the adventures she wanted to have--*Kiss someone--passionately
(the start of something big for Callie and Gabriel)*Smoke a cheroot and drink scotch
(turned out to be quite sexy)*Fence
(funny...then passionate)*Attend a duel
(suspenseful and near tragic)*Fire a pistol
(humorous)*Gamble at a gentleman's club
(hot, hot, hot)*Dance every dance at a ball
(Callie comes into her own)*Be considered beautiful--just once.
(you've always been beautiful, Callie)
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, except to say that Callie (with Gabriel's help) goes about breaking some rules and having some daring adventures, falls for Gabriel and wishes that he could love her as much as she loves him, but something in his past stands in his way. And Callie's opinion of herself causes her not to hope for the impossible. But seeing the impossible slowly become possible is what made this book so enjoyable. I was thoroughly engaged in this story, was dying
for Callie to get all that she longed for, and was hoping
that Gabriel wouldn't inadvertently hurt Callie and dash all her dreams. The chemistry between Callie and Gabriel was off the charts--and not just the sexual chemistry. These two were so good together--I felt like they each 'got' the other one--they completed each other.
And yes, the love scenes were quite hot for a non-erotica. There's plenty of foreplay, but only a few actual sex scenes. Which was perfectly fine--this book was so wonderfully written, the characters so alive, that it didn't need a whole lot of sex scenes to sell the story. I totally believed in Callie and Gabriel's romance, and the big payoff was worth the wait. Spicy hot and passionate.
I also enjoyed the supporting characters in this book. Callie's younger, more beautiful sister Mari, her older brother Benedick; Gabriel's twin brother Nick and his 'just discovered' sister Julianna (who Callie was 'tutoring' for her debut into society)--all these characters who interacted with Callie and Gabriel helped to make it a fuller, richer story.
This book made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me sigh. It brought out all the emotions. And when a book can do that for me, it's a winner. What a wonderful job Sarah MacLean did--I did not want this story to end. I hope that we see a lot more of Callie and Gabriel (they may be my favorite couple this year) in the next book, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord
. That's one historical that will be an auto-buy for me! 5 stars