|Oh, Cheryl. I’m usually a big fan. In fact, I have an area of my keeper shelf devoted to your novels. However, even though I wanted to love Taste of Temptation, it didn’t quite work out that way.
Helen Hamilton is the daughter of the notorious Harry Hamilton, a scoundrel who has ended up leaving Helen, and her younger sisters Jane and Amelia with nothing, and no one to protect them. Helen is twenty-five, and smart enough to know that she must do anything she can to keep her family together. She doesn’t have any money, so the first thing that she does is apply for a job as a governess to Lady Rose, the youngest sibling of Captain Tristan Odell. Tristan is the illegitimate son of the deceased Earl of Hastings, but he’s been charged with the responsibility of his younger siblings. He doesn’t really know what to do with them, but Tristan takes his responsibilities seriously
Tristan immediately tells Helen she won’t do. He specifically doesn’t want a pretty young woman living in his household, considering the womanizing ways of his younger brother, Michael, the young Earl of Hastings. He orders her away with barely a thought. Then, quite shortly after that disastrous job interview, Helen ends up meeting with a madam to sell herself as a mistress if it will feed and house herself and her sisters. She only hopes that she can find a wealthy, sweet protector. She’s stunned to find out that it’s Tristan who has bought her, and he is equally shocked to see Helen.
When Tristan realizes that Helen’s desperate circumstances weren’t merely an act to convince him to hire her, he changes his mind and hires her to tutor Rose, and to stay with him whenever he requires. After all, he has purchased her “like a hog at a fair”, and she knows that he’s currently the only one offering her any kind of help, even if it has strings attached.
It doesn’t help matters that they are both in awkward family positions, with responsibilities to their younger siblings: Tristan trying to figure out how to keep the young Earl out of serious trouble and comfort the orphaned Lady Rose, and Helen who’s trying to keep her flighty sister Jane from falling for Michael while Amelia bonds herself with Rose regardless of the difference in their station in life. Tristan and Helen’s attraction flares into an out-of-control affair with disastrous results for the Hamilton sisters. Soon Helen is back on her own again, trying to pick up the pieces, while someone in the background is scheming to destroy her permanently for daring to mess with the Earl of Hasting’s family.
Taste of Temptation starts out with the heart-tugging desperation of Helen’s situation and goes on in a sad, doomed way with very few bright spots.
Helen is a great heroine; she is strong, lovely, and kind. She falls victim to her own passions, but who can blame her for partaking in the only softness and comfort that’s offered to her with her hard life? She’s seriously devoted to her sisters, without being a martyr and she’s aware of the dangers of her affair with Tristan, but she’s also level headed about knowing where it will end up. Helen ends up being fairly tragic, with her pragmatic thoughts and her doomed path.
Tristan, on the other hand, comes off looking like a jerk. He was born into a fairly privileged life, doesn’t have a lot to complain about, and still manages to disappoint nearly everyone around him. He is bullheaded, single minded and arrogant. Some women find a take-charge type of man attractive, but it’s difficult to see why here since he comes off as a simpering do-gooder in parts of the story. A weird combination.
Also, the pacing of the story was off for me. The beginning was wonderful until after Tristan and Helen start their affair, then it became jerky and awkward. The danger and mystery was great, and probably my favorite part of the story, but this is mostly because the romance between Tristan and Helen had pretty much died by that point. There were a few flickers of life near the end of the story, but not enough to save this sad tale.
Taste of Temptation is too morose to be tempting, and some readers may want to try it out if they are fans of Holt already. The rest may just want to pass on this one.