My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Okay, let's get it out in the open: the premise of this book didn't sound very appealing to me at first. I mean, there's amnesia, deception, and another fake marriage - the fourth fake marriage/bethrotal in the Slightly series, and the fifth if you add A Summer to Remember, which is a prequel to the series. It should have been too much to take, right? Wrong! Somehow Ms. Balogh made it all work by making me fall in love with the H/h, and the rest is history...
The events in Slightly Sinful and Slightly Tempted, the previous book in the series, take place concurrently so it's a good idea to read both books back to back. I did, on the advice of my friends Beanbag Love and BJ Rose, and I had a lot of fun realizing how things could have been completely different if "this or that" happened. What's Romancelandia, if not a place full of what-ifs? ;)
Lord Alleyne Bedwyn, who's just embarked upon a career as a diplomat, has been sent to the front of the Battle of Waterloo to deliver a letter to the Duke of Wellington. On his way back to Brussels, Alleyne is shot, falls from his horse and suffers a head injury. Unconscious and defenseless, he's robbed, stripped naked by looters, and left to die in the forest.
Rachel York was working as a ladies' companion in Brussels when she fell prey to the so-called Reverend Nigel Crawley, who was actually a con artist and managed to steal all her meager funds. He's also robbed the life savings of four whores (I don't like using this term, but that's how Ms. Balogh calls them in the book) who are friends with Rachel, so now she finds herself having to live in a brothel with these "painted ladies" while they plot how to track down the conniving "Reverend" and get their money back. But they need money to afford this chase, and the quickest way to get some at the moment is to loot the dead from the Battle of Waterloo. So off they go to the battlefield, but Rachel decides to stay behind in the forest...
As fate would have it, the first "dead" body Rachel finds is Alleyne's, and when she realizes he isn't really dead, she cries for help. This is one of the what-ifs I mentioned above,
Anyway, Rachel takes the nearly dead Alleyne to the brothel with the assistance of Sergeant William Strickland, the man who rushed to her help in the forest. While nursing both men to health - Sergeant Strickland was also injured in Waterloo -, Rachel develops a special "connection" with Alleyne and, between moments of blessed darkness oblivion and painful consciousness, he becomes infatuated with her. He knows that he's feverish and at least partially delirious, but what red-blooded male wouldn't fall in love with such an angel? The problem is, when this red-blooded male finally awakes from his brush with death, he's got amnesia and doesn't know who he is.
Slightly afraid of facing his new reality alone and hoping to buy some time until he recovers his memory, Alleyne decides to join Rachel and her friends in their quest to recover their lost money. So off they go back to England, where Rachel is to deceive her estranged uncle and convince him she's married to a nice gentleman (aka Jonathan Smith aka Alleyne) so she can get her hands on her inheritance. Once in posession of the jewels her mother has left her, Rachel can sell some of them and finance the chase after the dastardly "Reverend". But when they arrive at her uncle's estate, things get a little tricky, and Alleyne and Rachel are forced to spend more time together than they've planned. Pretending to be happy newlyweds in love for a month for her uncle's sake is due to take its toll, isn't it? And what will happen when Alleyne recovers his memory? Will he be back to being the haughty Lord Alleyne Bedwyn and forget about the group of misfits he met in Brussels?
As I said in the first paragraph of this review, I loved Alleyne and Rachel. They were great together, and I could easily see why each fell in love with the other. There was a small misunderstanding in the beginning of their relationship, and Alleyne was aware of it and could have cleared it sooner than he did, but it wasn't bad enough to ruin the progress of the story. In fact, I understood why he chose to keep his silence and let Rachel keep her misconception about his feelings. It was just the way he found to resist his attraction to her.
I also loved Rachel's relationship with her uncle and her friends. Granted, those four "painted ladies" were unbelievably nice and kind-hearted - I could have bought one, maybe two "whores with a heart of gold", but four at once was too much - and I had to suspend disbelief with their antics at Rachel's uncle's home, but they made me laugh so they didn't really bother me overall.
As for the plot, I was okay with the amnesia and the deception in the beginning, but they lasted a bit too long. I got really nervous near the end of the story,
"Bewcastle had already seen him. His gaze was steady and silver-eyed and inscrutable. His hand reached for the gold-handled, jewel-studded quizzing glass he always wore with formal attire and raised it halfway to his eyes in a characteristic gesture. Then he came striding along the terrace with uncharacteristic speed and did not stop coming until he had caught Alleyne up in a tight, wordless embrace that lasted perhaps a whole minute while Alleyne dipped his forehead to his brother’s shoulder and felt at last that he was safe.
It was an extraordinary moment. He had been little more than a child when his father died, but Wulfric himself had been only seventeen. Alleyne had never thought of him as a father figure. Indeed, he had often resented the authority his brother wielded over them with such unwavering strictness, and often with apparent impersonality and lack of humor. He had always thought of his eldest brother as aloof, unfeeling, totally self-sufficient. A cold fish. And yet it was in Wulfric’s arms that he felt his homecoming most acutely. He felt finally and completely and unconditionally loved.
An extraordinary moment indeed."
Okay, I'd better stop now because this is no longer a review, but a rave from a die-hard Balogh fan, LOL. When it comes to her books, I just can't stop gushing about them. I. Just. Love. Her. Writing!
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