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Desire Becomes Her
by Shirlee Busbee
(Zebra, $15, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-4201-1844-5
***
Gillian Dashwood is our wonderful heroine in Desire Becomes Her, and Shirlee Busbee takes the reader through her tumultuous life in this tale.

We meet Gillian at a very uncomfortable house party, thrown by the Duke of Welbourne; her husband Charles insisted that she attend, even buying her a new dress for the occasion, but Gillian was unaware of what type of party it was. Even partway through the party, she’s puzzled by the missing wives of the other men at the party, she thought that the Duchess and other wives would attend, and there seems to be a number of other women present, whom she’s never met.

After some disastrous attempts at polite conversation, Gillian retreats to her room for solitude when she’s confronted by Lord Winthrop, one of Charles’ friends who assures Gillian that Charles sent him to collect a night of her favors in exchange for forgiving the large amount of money that Charles owes him.

Shocked, disgusted and enraged, Gillian throws Winthrop from her room, and goes in search of Charles, only to find him just freshly murdered in a puddle of blood, and the killer who’s hiding in the shadows bashes her over the head and leaves her there with Charles’ body to be discovered.

The ton quickly speculates that Gillian’s a murderess, her story of being clubbed over the head so weak, and Gillian is basically banished to the country with her cousin Sophia, to live in a small cottage tending the vegetable garden. Sophia and Gillian decide to visit their Uncle Silas, their only older relative, at his estate, and find him recovering from a broken arm. Uncle Silas has asked a few times in the past for Sophia and Gillian to come and live with him, and now, seeing Silas as a bit of an injured dear old relative, they consent.

Unfortunately, Gillian’s estranged brother Stanley is also visiting, probably to ask Uncle Silas for money, and he’s brought his rude, pretentious friend Canfield with him. Canfield is full of ulterior motives, one being to seek out members of an illegal smuggling ring he’s involved in, and the other to blackmail Gillian with some information he has about the night of Charles’ murder.

Gillian’s fairly certain that things can’t get worse when she’s introduced to Uncle Silas’s dear friend Luc Joslyn, a French gambler with a devilish reputation so much like her husband Charles. Unfortunately, Gillian’s attracted to Luc, which Luc capitalizes on fairly quickly, trapping her into an impossible situation. Our lovely Gillian ends up wed to another gambler, and despite the spark of hope she feels about her relationship with Luc, the night of Charles’ death hangs over her head like a black cloud, and she knows that it will devastate the fragile state of her new marriage, but she must get to the bottom of what happened in order to find some peace.

Desire Becomes Her has some good and bad points, and I’ll explain them here for you to weigh.

Gillian is our intrepid, fascinating heroine and she’s definitely the best part of the story. She’s a full-fledged woman, without girlish attitudes or flightiness, and I loved her. Luc is also a strong, appealing hero. He’s a great match for Gillian in a lot of ways.

There is a backstory involving Luc’s family, a lot of briefly mentioned connections that left me wondering who was who, how they were connected and a little confused. While the interesting masculine discussion that happened during their family meetings was often witty and informative, it also followed a story of smuggling, and many past family events that seemed superfluous.

Gillian and Luc’s courtship is basically non existent and their intimacy level very low, so if you’re looking for a great deal of romance, this one’s not for you. If Gillian and Luc had more time for conversation and intimacy, this might have packed a lot more punch as a tale, but as it is, while the writing is lovely, Desire Becomes Her in general was very forgettable.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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