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Expected Release Date: July 1, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Imprint: Forever
Author’s Website: http://www.vickydreiling.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 2
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but worked well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

When Lady Julianne Gatewick realizes the rake of her dreams thinks of her as practically his sister, she decides it’s time to get even. The charming Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, is every lady’s fantasy, but he’s determined to evade virgins and their matrimonial traps – especially his best friend’s sister. Hawk reluctantly agrees to be Julianne’s guardian for the season, but he’s having trouble resisting his gorgeous ward. Worse still, she’s taunting him by flirting with every scoundrel in London – and he’s sworn to protect her! Certain she’s learned her tricks from the authoress of that scandalous publication “The Secrets of Seduction”, Hawk sets out to uncover the writer’s identity. But he never expects to find the formerly angelic Julianne behind the mask – and between his sheets.

Lady Julianne Gatewick has always harbored a tendre for her brother’s best friend, Marc Darcett, the Earl of Hawkfield. When he’s asked by her brother to be her guardian for the season, and then whisks her around the ballroom in a borderline scandalous waltz, she’s ecstatic — that is, until he informs everyone within earshot that she’s like a sister to him and therefor in no danger.

Heartbroken and humiliated, she turns to her friends and her (rather wild) aunt and after a few tears and a lot of advice, she decides to write a pamphlet for other women in her situation to give advice on how to even a social playing field where women are expected to be chaste and charming and marry very young, while men are expected to be rakes and wait until the last possible minute to fall into the parson’s mousetrap.  Called “The Secrets of Seduction”, her anonymously penned pamphlet creates a storm of scandal among the ton, and soon everyone is trying to discover her identity, including Marc.   Fed up with Marc’s admonishments to avoid other rakes, and determined to finally make him see her as a woman rather than an annoying little sister, she asks Marc to teach her the tricks that rakes use for seduction, so that she will be better equipped to recognize and avoid them in others in the future. Little does she know that Marc has been doing everything in his power to avoid his attraction to Julianne, and when you play with fire, you just might get burned…

What worked for me:

  • I’m a big fan of childhood friends who end up falling in love, so this one appealed to me right from the start. The added “unrequited love” between Juliana and Marc made it especially enjoyable for me.
  • I loved the advice in The Secrets of Seduction, but more than that, I liked the male perspective on the “game playing” of females and how women don’t seem to understand how hard it can be for “average” men to gather the courage to try to court someone.  While at first I was most sympathetic with Julianne’s position that men had all the power in those days in courtship and marriage, it was nice to get the other side of the story, even if it was only in passing.
  • While I did guess what Marc’s Big Secret was fairly early on in the story, I liked the refreshing twist to the situation, and that he’d spent the rest of his life living up to his mistake rather than making up for it.
  • I went back and forth on whether or not I liked the resolution from said “Big Mistake” and have decided that in the end I liked it. It was both realistic and rather hopeful, and while not the perfect everything-is-rainbows-and-kitties ending that some might have wished for, it worked beautifully for this story.

What didn’t work for me:

  • While I feel that this book worked well as a standalone, I still feel that newcomers might be a tiny bit lost with the references to the previous novel. For new readers, it should be known that the previous book involved Julianne’s brother participating in a sort of regency style version of “The Bachelor”, and ended up marrying the woman who was his matchmaker rather than one of the participants (no, that’s not a spoiler y’all — that was on the back of the book for the first one lol), and Julianne became quite close to two of the “contestants”, who spent the entire previous Season refusing all other suitors in hope of winning Julianne’s brother.    Knowing this will help to explain quite a few of the relationships in the book, and should make the reading experience a bit smoother.

Overall, this was quite enjoyable.  While quite different from the first book in the series, Ms. Dreiling’s voice as a writer remains as strong as ever, so that the angst and chemistry between our hero and heroine is everything we’ve come to expect.

The beautiful pain that Julianne’s unrequited love of Marc brings was absolutely wonderful, and the forbidden aspect of their relationship just added to the fun.

Recommended for fans of childhood friends secretly pining for each other, of heroes with pasts so scandalous that they avoid love altogether, and of discovering that together, anything can be overcome.

A very solid 4/5 Stars