Reading One Night of Passion was like eating a familiar dish prepared by a different chef. I liked Ms. Boyle’s take on the recipe, so I consumed the book with pleasure. She does use many common ingredients, though, so some of you may find the results too predictable to be compelling.
Orphaned eleven years ago, Georgiana Escott and her sister, Kit, were fostered by a sea captain’s wife, hired for a pittance by their nasty Uncle Phineas. Now that their foster mother is dead, the girls have been brought to London where Georgie makes an unpleasant discovery; her uncle has virtually sold her to a repulsive old earl who has buried a disturbing number of wives. She also finds that her uncle is not, as she always assumed, her legal guardian. That role belongs to a mysterious Lord Danvers who has, apparently, shown no interest in his wards beyond signing the betrothal papers consigning Georgie to her unpleasant fate.
She has one hope. The earl insists that Georgie be untouched before marriage; therefore, she must lose her virginity before the doctor comes to examine her the next day. Fortunately, the Cyprian’s Ball is taking place that very night, so Georgie goes to the licentious gathering to find an unprincipled rake for a one night stand.
Instead, to her dismay, she finds herself shadowed by Colin, a man “who practically smelled of decency.” He’s everything she could desire to turn a humiliating chore into an incredible experience - except that he doesn’t debauch innocents. And the more Colin compares Georgie with the hard-faced harlots all around them, the more convinced he is that she is innocent. Physically, anyway.
While he’s worried about her motives and concerned for her safety, Colin also has other things on his mind. Recently accused of treason and cashiered out of the navy, he’s apparently doing everything he can to convince people of his guilt. It certainly never occurs to him that his title - Lord Danvers - might mean anything to his ingenuous Cyprian.
The first half of the book, which I enjoyed very much, takes place almost entirely the night that Georgie and Colin meet. To introduce and develop the characters, keep the story moving forward at a lively, yet appropriate, pace, and reach a satisfyingly romantic conclusion within such a brief span of time is a difficult task, and one the author handled nicely.
I enjoyed finding out who these characters were and how they behaved in surprising situations. I enjoyed their interplay and the way it highlighted the chemistry between them. And I particularly enjoyed the way the initiative moved back and forth between Georgie and Colin until I wasn’t sure just which was the seducer and which the seduced.
At almost exactly the halfway mark, the book skips ahead in time and picks up a year later and, while I continued to enjoy Georgie and Colin’s adventure, I would have to say that it relied much too frequently on coincidence. While I thought the author did a pretty good job in making the coincidences seem as credible as possible, this is too shopworn a device to be really effective, particularly when so many are required. A more plausible chain of events would have strengthened this story enormously.
In the first half of the book, I rejoiced in the fact that both Colin and Georgie resisted the temptation to judge each other based on superficial evidence but trusted their instincts instead. Unfortunately this made it a little frustrating in the second half when Georgie clings to her reasons for refusing to tell Colin the truth about herself.
In spite of these quibbles, I found it an entertaining story - and if the plot sometimes relied too much on romance convention, the writing, thankfully, never descended into romance cliché (which is really what makes me feel like I’ve read a story before).
Those demanding a high degree of originality may find this book less to their taste, but if, like me, you can get swept up in a familiar adventure so long as it’s well told, this book has a lot of charm.