Synopsis: IRRESISTIBLE SEDUCTION ONLY LEADS TO. . .
War had scarred the Earl of Ashby's face...and perhaps his soul. Before being wounded in the Napoleonic war and shunning society, the dashing lord had been a notorious rake. Now, Isabel Aubrey, a proper lady, dares to approach the masked, reclusive nobleman for a large donation to a worthy charity-and decides she must save him from his self-loathing. She begins to flirt. He responds. She invites him to a masquerade ball. He accepts and dazzles her with a kiss.
THE MOST SCANDALOUS PASSION. . .
But Isabel already has a fiancé‚ and despite her attraction to the earl she knows she must reject him. Yet no force on earth is greater than the passion that leads her into his bed; nothing she has ever experienced is more exciting and erotic. Now he asks her to stay with him although it will mean her ruin. Isabel must not say yes-and the smitten earl cannot let her say no. To win her body and her heart, he initiates an outrageous scheme that only a rake would devise-and no woman can resist.
My Thoughts: I enjoyed Isabel and Ashby’s relationship. I’m a big fan of friends falling in love, unrequited love (girlhood crushes), or anything else that remotely resembles it.
By the middle of the book, it was clear Ashby wanted Isabel as much as Isabel wanted Ashby. So, then I thought, where’s the conflict?? I still had 200 plus pages to go before I finished it! And then as I read the next 200 pages I thought "be careful what you wish for". There were conflicts everywhere. John (Isabel's suitor) and Isabel, Ashby and John, Ashby and the ton, Ashby and his war demons, Ashby and his self-esteem, Ashby and Isabel ~ you name it, there was probably a conflict.
Then there was the whole "I've been scarred for life and look like a gargoyle and you can't see me without my mask on" factor. Seriously. The first half of the book. Then something happens and Ashby loses his mask and *gasp* his face is seen. But wait. There's really not much difference. And with a shrug, Ashby gets over it. Just like that. Okay ~ so what was the big deal? One minute it's a huge factor that's keeping Ashby and Izzy apart and the next it's as if it was never a factor at all.That being said, I did enjoy the characters. I liked Ashby ~ a lot. I liked his history with Izzy's family; his friendship with her brother, Will. I enjoyed that. I liked Izzy ~ I loved reading about her as a 15 year-old girl smitten with the then 27 Ashby. I enjoyed seeing the changes in the characters in the 7 years since they'd seen each other.
I also enjoyed the side characters very much. Izzy's friends, Iris and Sophie were a great addition this novel, as well as their friend Ryan who was also betrothed to Iris at one point in the distant past. They added a great depth to Izzy and her cause. Then there was Izzy's family as well as Ashby's hired help. They all added something to the story as well.
Verdict: I'm really torn on this one. I do think Rona Sharon is a wonderful storyteller and I’m looking forward to reading more of her in the future. However, as much as I liked Ashby and Isabel, I do think this story was about 200 pages too long. I think there were just too many conflicts. Once one conflict became rectified, another one immediately took it's place. It became frustrating and at times rather hard to even enjoy reading this story. All in all, I'd say this was Good. It would have been excellent if Ms. Sharon would have cut the number of conflicts to at least half.