A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.
~4 hearts: I loved it!
Isobel Carr’s Ripe for Seduction is the third book in her League of Second Sons series, but it was easy to read as a stand-alone. It’s a light-hearted story of how a pretend engagement built on less than honorable intentions somehow manages to bloom into a real love between a notorious rake and a ruined woman of the ton.
While out carousing one night with his fellow secret society members, Roland Devere has too much to drink and agrees to yet another ill-chosen bet. He wakes the next morning to discover he has wagered a pound that he will be the first to bed a well-known lady who has returned to London months after the death of her bigamist husband. What he doesn’t count on is the lady having a secret plan of her own to thwart similar untoward propositions from anyone else during the upcoming season.
Lady Olivia Carlow didn’t know her late husband was already married when they had wed, but now that he’s dead, she’s the only one left to suffer the blame from London society. When Devere’s insulting proposition arrives via a drunkenly scrawled note sent to her father’s house, she seizes her advantage and blackmails Devere into agreeing to a false engagement. With Devere by her side as her purported fiance, Olivia intends to keep all the other less than honorable suitors from forcing their attentions and spreading lies about her even if she should turn them aside. Then when the season is over, she can break with him publicly and retire permanently to the family’s country estate at Holinshed. But as she and Devere spend more time in each other’s company, what started as pretend becomes the real thing, and the consequences of their actions have long-reaching implications for more than just themselves.
The fake marriage trope is one of my favorites and it’s used beautifully here in Ripe For Seduction. Olivia is in London under duress, preferring to stay forever buried in the country instead of in town fending off the disgusting private propositions from the men and frosty public snubs from the women. Roland would never have been so incredibly rude to her when sober, but he’s clearly not unhappy at the fate she’s forced on him in return for keeping his drunken overtures a secret. Their growing attraction was fun to watch, as was the concurrent secondary plot of how Olivia’s not-so-old widowed father became attached to Devere’s somewhat older widowed sister. There were a few villains here and there, and another side plot related to the activity of the Second Sons folding neatly into the inevitable Big Misunderstanding between Roland and Olivia near the end of the story. I found the relative lack of angst and drama to be quite refreshing, preferring the extensive details of how Olivia and her father both found happiness with the unlikeliest of partners. And after the Big Misunderstanding is cleared up and true love wins out for all, the epilogue provided the perfect ending to a lovely read.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ripe for Seduction and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the League of Second Sons series.
“Livy” -- he cupped her face and lowered his head until he was staring directly into her eyes -- “let me make myself perfectly clear. I love you. There’s no other reason I’d propose in earnest. Not to get you in my bed, not to enrich myself with your dowry, not to pave the way for my sister and your father. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll just have to work at it until you do.”