Ripe for Pleasure
by Isobel Carr
(Warner Forever, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-446-57275-0
Ripe for Pleasure is the first book in Isobel Carr’s The League of Second Sons series, an interesting premise for a series.

Carr introduces us to a secret society of younger sons of the aristocracy in 1780s London, where the men next in line have banded together to form friendships and help each other out, being generally looked down on by the world, unless their fathers and elder brothers die.

Leonidas Vaughn is a second son, and part of the League. He has good friends that he’s met there, and he loves his unconventional, close-knit family. Leonidas and his cousin Charles have traced a missing family treasure trove to London, one that Leo desperately needs to keep his small family estate running. His older brother Glennalmond has control of the family coffers, and Leo’s pride stops him from asking his family for money. Leo finds that the treasure must be hidden in a townhouse in London’s posh section of town, but it’s occupied by the luscious Mrs. Whedon, courtesan extraordinaire. Leo knows he can’t afford to keep the exclusive Mrs. Whedon, but he does need to search her house, so he commits to a plan that makes Viola feel threatened, and then steps in to offer her his protection.

Viola thinks that her tell-all memoirs that have been recently published might be the reason that she’s being threatened. She’s glad to have the tall, strong, seemingly honorable Leo to protect her. Leo’s plan also includes her seduction, which is executed fairly well and very quickly.

Obviously, this pair is fated for a catastrophic end due to their false beginning, but the one thing that Leo never expects is to fall in love with the woman he’s committed to dupe.

Ripe for Pleasure is an interesting read since it spins the traditional duke hero stereotype around, which I appreciated, it also asks the question of what happens to all of the second, and third, and so on sons of London who never seem to get their stories told.

I liked Leo for the most part, he comes across as very realistic, knowing his faults and yet managing to be very charismatic and strong. I kind of lost my liking for him as the book progressed and his character faded as he made very wacky decisions and seemed foolish.

I really loved Leo’s friends, the colorful characters well-described within the League of Second Sons, who were obviously a tight brotherhood, and brought a little masculine magic to the background of Leo and Viola’s story.

Viola Whedon is much more than a courtesan, her background story is carefully detailed and the reader can see exactly how she made the decisions she did that have led her through her life. Viola manages to be a careful, independent woman even though she’s painted with a tainted brush by most of society. It’s impossible not to like her. She’s not shameless, but she doesn’t regret her course of survival. Unfortunately, she and Leo never seem to really connect for me. Viola’s too smart to be so easily fooled by a pretty face, and Leo’s ploys seems so transparent.

The lack of connection between our leading couple really bothered me, it made their interactions seem forced and unbelievable as they intend to get more serious with each other. On top of that, Leo’s labeled unconventional family pulls and tugs and coerces the couple every which way until they seem to be nothing but mindless puppets. Not only that, but Leo seriously loses manliness points by letting his mother direct his life.

There are a few great parts to Ripe for Pleasure, and some very disappointing lows, but it was buoyed enough by the League idea to score a solid three heart score.

--Amy Wroblewsky

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