High Seas to High Society

One Unashamed Night
by Sophia James
(Harl. Historical, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-373-29605-7
Sophia James has delivered a little gem of a book with One Unashamed Night. If you enjoy a romance that has a few unusual elements, this is one book that's definitely worth your time.

Beatrice-Maude Bassingstoke is a twenty-eight year old widow who harbors guilty feelings of having failed in her marriage. Her husband convinced her she was plain, blaming her for their childless state. Fortunately for Bea, she came into a sizable inheritance upon his death. She is on her way to London to take up residence and start a new life for herself when the public carriage in which she is traveling overturns in a snowstorm.

Also in the carriage is Lord Taris Wellingham, brother of the Duke of Carisbrook. A decorated war hero, Taris is going blind from an injury incurred when he tried to save his brother from an attack (see James' previous book, High Seas to High Society), but he has managed to hide the fact from all but his closest family. When he and Bea try to go get help, they end up spending the night in a barn. This leads to an unexpected night of passionate sex. The next day, when help arrives in the form of Taris's worried brother and sister-in-law, he abruptly turns his back on Bea. The reader knows it's because he doesn't want her to see his blindness; Bea is sure her plainness drove him away.

But Beatrice-Maude Bassingstoke is made of stern stuff. She continues on to London, where with the help of some kindly neighbors, she manages to establish a place for herself in genteel society. Then she and Taris meet up again, and this time she mistakes his surprised fumbling as a sign that he's a drunkard. This brings back too many memories of her late husband, who was a mean drunk himself. Taris can't keep himself away from the lovely woman who has haunted him since their night together, but how will she react when she learns the truth about his failing eyesight?

As Bea cautiously agrees to spend time with Taris and their attraction deepens into something more, readers will be charmed by these two. They are clearly meant to be together and bring out the best in each other. Bea's looks, which are actually quite pleasant, don't matter to Taris - he falls in love with her voice, her personality, and her lovely figure. Taris's attentiveness causes Bea to let go of the unhappy memories of her late husband and focus on the future. When an unexpected event forces their hand, Taris and Bea must take a leap of faith, and by the time they do, readers will feel confident that this is a union that will last.

I haven't read anything by Sophia James before, but I will sure be looking for her future releases. One of the best things about this book is the way the author stays true to her characters. Taris is going blind, and Bea is not a conventional beauty. It takes a certain amount of storytelling skill to make a romance out of a rather tragic situation, but James does it beautifully.

One Unashamed Night is an enjoyable and poignant read. This is one book that's easy to recommend.

--Cathy Sova

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