Closer to 3.5 stars.
My interest in historical romances has waned to the point that I pretty much pass them by unless they are written by an handful of long-time favorite authors. But for some reason the blurb on this one caught my attention.
The only other book by Emma Wildes that I have read is [b:Lessons From a Scarlet Lady|6629162|Lessons From a Scarlet Lady (Northfield, #1)|Emma Wildes|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328011724s/6629162.jpg|6823507] which I really enjoyed. So I thought I'd give this one a try.
The blurb gives prominent space to the characters, Benjamin Wallace, The Earl of Heathton and Lady Elena Morrow. While she is a "heroine" and he is a "hero", they are not each other's. I found myself enjoying the somewhat unconventional structure of the story. It felt like the author was playing with the expectations that long-time readers would have of the genre.
Lady Elena is a young, newly engaged miss who disappears abruptly one night from the theatre right under the nose of her parents. Her father is terribly worried. Even more so when it it learned that Ran Raines,Viscount Andrews, a prominent rake, is also missing from town. At first people speculate that the two have run off together. But smarter people realize that the two have never even met and Elena (young, innocent, virginal) is definitely not the type of woman Ran would have anything to do with.
In fact the two have been abducted and they wake up, drugged and unclothed, held prisoner in an undisclosed location. They spend the time arguing, trying to figure out who would do this and becoming attracted to each other.
In the meantime, Elena's frantic father is directed to Benjamin, Lord Heathton. Apparently Ben is somewhat of a person who can get things done. He can find things, fix things, make things right, uncover mysteries. He served under Wellington in the war and has all sorts of skills. Ben just so happens to be newly married. His wife of six months is the lovely Alicia. They did not marry for love, rather he sized her up as the type of woman who would make a good countess for him. But Alicia has other ideas. In the six months they've been married they live a very civilized life where Ben is off doing the things that Earls do while Alicia is off doing things that countesses do. Sometimes they can go a day or two without even seeing each other. And on those nights they are together, they have very correct sex in the dark.
Alicia is having no more of this. She want to get to know her husband and she wants to have a more fulfilling marriage. So she gives him an ultimatum, one that intrigues him and makes him see his bride in a whole new light.
The story jumps, almost like scene cuts on a tv show, between the captured Elena and Ran to Ben's various investigation ploys to Ben & ALicia's romance plot. The three plot threads of the story mesh together fairly well. The reader gets to see what is going on from Elena and Ran's perspective and watch as those two begin to fall in love while also seeing the investigation from Ben's perspective.
For me, Ben & Alicia are the best parts of the book. While Elena and Ran were fine as a couple -- She was smart, resourceful and witty, he was handsome, sexy and honorable -- their romance was almost perfunctory and they just didn't capture me like Ben & Alicia did. I liked the fact that the book had a mystery plot but I liked even better Alicia's resolve to get her man.
Ben is the MVP of the book. He is enigmatic, mysterious and utterly flummoxed by his wife. I like how the author created such a controlled contained character in Ben while still giving him some great layers making him sexy and little vulnerable. And like [b:Lessons From a Scarlet Lady|6629162|Lessons From a Scarlet Lady (Northfield, #1)|Emma Wildes|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328011724s/6629162.jpg|6823507], I enjoyed watching a romance unfold between a man and woman who were already married and are negotiating how to make the marriage work.
While the book ends happily for Elena and Ran, the other two plots are still a work in progress. The mystery plot continues on in the next book [b:A Most Improper Rumor|15709166|A Most Improper Rumor (Whispers of Scandal, #2)|Emma Wildes|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1350868154s/15709166.jpg|21374636]as does the continuing evolution of Ben and Alicia's marriage.
Looking forward to that one now...