When I heard this book was coming, I looked forward to it so much I wondered if it might prove a disappointment. I needn’t have worried. In my opinion, Stella Riley never fails to hit the mark. The story-line may not be hugely original but it is extremely engaging and moves along easily and at just the right pace to keep you turning pages. But the areas where, as always, Ms Riley really shines are in characterisation and dialogue. The writing throughout is extremely stylish, the dialogue is natural, often witty and the characters are so well-drawn you feel you know them personally.
As for Rockliffe – where do I start? Wow! As far as romantic leads go, he is outstanding. Charming, attractive and clever – but also fair-minded, possessed of a strong sense of humour and, above all, kind. This is a man who could probably get any girl he wanted but, though he knows he can seduce Adeline, he is by no means sure he can win her heart – a quality that I found particularly endearing. During the course of the book, we get to know him really well. The scene between him and Joanna, Adeline’s mother, was particularly touching. However, best of all, in the last chapter, we finally see him completely unravel. Everything he’s felt and thought for months comes pouring out in a torrent of emotion – and, if I have a favourite bit, this was probably it. Truthfully, I haven’t fallen this hard for a hero since Alex Deveril in ‘The Marigold Chain’.
There is a great deal of sexual tension in the book and, though the sex scene itself is by no means explicit, it still creates a frisson or two. I get the impression that Ms Riley works on the assumption that, since we all know how it works, we don’t need a manual.
All the other characters are extremely believable. You understand why Adeline behaves the way she does; you want to give Diana a slap and wish Rockliffe knew the truth so he could kill the wicked uncle. The two big set-piece scenes are also brilliant; first the Franklin ball which turns into a farce and then, in the penultimate chapter, the Queensberry ball where everything finally comes to a head. The latter is fairly gut-wrenching but what an ending!
Apparently ‘A Splendid Defiance’ is coming next – and, though I haven’t come across a copy in years, I remember Justin Ambrose. Will I love him more than Rockliffe? It’s a tough call but one I look forward to making.
Please keep them coming Ms Riley. You’re making this reader very happy.
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)