The Bride Thief

In Over His Head

Love and the Single Heiress

Never a Lady

Not Quite a Gentleman

Red Roses Mean Love

Sleepless at Midnight

A Sure Thing

Whirlwind Affair

Whirlwind Wedding

Confessions at Midnight
by Jacquie DíAlessandro
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-123139-1
Confessions at Midnight is a book that makes me wish we had a three-and-a-half heart rating here at TRR. Itís better than just ďacceptableĒ, but gets stuck in a rut halfway through and takes a while to recover.

Lady Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate, is a member of the Ladies Literary Society of London. Comprised of Carolyn and three friends, including her sister Emily, the ladies are currently studying the scandalous Memoirs of a Mistress, in which an unnamed author describes all sorts of sensual delights. The three unmarried ladies, including widowed Carolyn, are scandalized and highly intrigued. Are such things, well, possible? Indeed they are, assures Emily, and well worth the time.

Carolynís imagination runs riot, and her curiosity spills over into her acquaintanceship with Daniel Sutton, Earl Surbrooke, a determined rake who was a friend of her late husband. Daniel has been lusting after Carolyn for ten years, and now that Carolyn is coming out of a two-year period of mourning, he decides to test the waters and see if she returns his interest. An affair will do them both good, he reasons, and itís not like their hearts will be involved.

Romance readers, of course, know that these two will fall head over heels for one another, and they do indeed - in a fine, lusty fashion. Carolyn however, is plagued by feelings of guilt. Is she being disloyal to the memory of her dear Edward? Daniel knows he canít compete with Edwardís memory, but Carolyn becomes increasingly precious to him, and soon he canít imagine a life without her.

Because the author needs to keep these two close to each other, and since they donít sit down and talk about what they are feeling, there must be a murderer on the loose. At first, everyone assumes itís Daniel who is the target, but when it becomes apparent itís Carolyn the killer wants, he decides to keep her close. This allows DíAlessandro to bring in her next two heroes in the series and give them something to do. One is a brash American with an immense fortune; the other is a Bow Street Runner.

Carolyn and Daniel are enjoyable characters. He thinks he wants a good romp between the sheets, but everyone in the story knows Daniel is deluding himself. Carolyn comes a little too close to martyr status in her devotion to her late husband, but she grows beyond it as the story progresses. Itís easy to see how her unaffected, friendly manner would charm the rather world-weary Daniel, whose experiences with women have mostly been of the mistress-and-courtesan variety.

Daniel canít help rescuing things, and his household is overrun with cats, dogs, even servants that heís helped out of a jam. The author uses this to show what a great guy he is underneath the rake exterior, and it was generally quite charming. Daniel knows heís a pushover and tries to keep this side of his life well hidden. Carolyn is highly attracted by it, and it does humanize him, although some readers may feel it was a bit forced.

The story drags in the middle, which is its one drawback. After Carolyn and Daniel discover their interest in one another, they go back and forth with various scenes of lust, thinking about sex, pondering their attraction to each other, etc., interrupted only by an attempt on Carolynís life. Then itís back to sex, lust, and pondering, until the next time the murderer makes an appearance. Eventually itís all tied up, but it felt like a rather long road to get there.

However, Jacquie DíAlessandro definitely has a terrific voice for historical romance. Carolyn and Daniel are two characters worth getting to know, and their love story is spicy and satisfying. Iíll be looking forward to her next book in this series. Guess that makes it a four-heart read, at that.

--Cathy Sova

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