Angel in Scarlet
Angel in Scarlet is the fourth book in Lavinia Kent’s Bound and Determined series. With a series title like that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the book is heavy on sex and light on dialogue and exposition. Ultimately, though, it is the lack of appealing characters and a convincing romance that makes for a dull read. I found myself repeatedly checking the progress bar on my Kindle while I was reading it–not the hallmark of a good book.
The book opens with Miss Angela Ripon visiting Madame Rouge, the proprietress of a brothel, to get some advice on how to seduce a man. You see a couple of months ago, she was courted by Lord Colton and things were going well. So well, in fact, that Angela had every expectation of receiving a proposal of marriage from the eligible bachelor. Then one afternoon, Angela goes to the theater with her brother to visit his actress friend and who should Angela see but Lord Colton’s naked paramour giving him a…err…playing his flute right there on the empty stage! Hurt and bewildered, Angela tries to pretend that nothing has happened. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less when a short time later, Lord Colton breaks off their relationship by telling her that he never had any serious intentions towards her.
So now Angela wants vengeance against Colton for his callous treatment of her. Her plan? Seduce him. Tell him that she will do anything he wants in the bedroom. Make him want her so badly that he thinks he will die if he cannot have her. And when he finally asks her to marry him, she will refuse him and trample his heart and his ego into a million little pieces.
Angela’s offer is, of course, too tempting for Colton to refuse; and what follows is about half a dozen sex scenes broken up by some really stilted dialogue between our hero and heroine.
Seriously, this couple tried my patience. First, we have Angela, a naïve young woman who comes up with a half-baked plan to seduce Colton without really understanding what that means. So you get endless conversations in which Colton and Angela or Madame Rouge and Angela talk circles around each other. Colton or Madame Rouge asks Angela what she wants. Angela answers that she wants him/Colton. Colton/Madame Rouge says no, what do you really want. Angela stares at them like they’re speaking Chinese, thinks about it and says well, that thing Colton did the last time was nice. Angela and Colton engage in some kind of sexual activity. Rinse, repeat. And there you have the entire book.
Then, there’s Colton, about whom we don’t really know anything except that he enjoys dominating his sexual partners. And his reason for breaking things off with Angela? He has certain sexual proclivities that he is not sure she will be able to handle. While I can see how such a conversation would have been awkward, better communication between our hero and heroine would have saved us all from the rest of this book.
To be fair, the love scenes are actually pretty hot and quite well done. Because of Angela’s inexperience, Colton decides to ease her into sex. Each time they meet, they go a little further in their sexual exploration but it is not until almost the end of the book that they finally consummate their relationship. The author does a good job of injecting different elements into these scenes so that they don’t become repetitive. The problem here, though, is that Angela and Colton’s courtship happens entirely off page, so I never felt any connection between the couple or even got to know them. When they finally do make love, the emotional impact is muted.
Also, after so much fuss is made about Colton’s sexual preferences – I don’t think anyone’s going to be surprised when it’s finally revealed that he’s into BDSM – I found it curious that the author chose not to include any BDSM elements in the sex scenes. While I don’t require those to enjoy a sexy book, I do feel that their inclusion here would have been warranted considering that Colton’s sexual tendencies are the underlying theme of the book.
Towards the end, the couple finally decides to have an honest conversation that helps resolve their issues. But I found it hard to care given how little build up there is to their romance. Readers who enjoy well-written sex scenes set in bucolic surroundings – one of the love scenes is set in a Grecian temple! – may enjoy Angel in Scarlet. Readers who prefer that their romance novels actually feature the romance, on the other hand, may be disappointed.