A Taste of Desire
I had to wait a few hours after I finished this book to write this review — it’s hard to type when fanning oneself. This book is smoking hot — the sexual tension between the two leads crackles on the page and their love scenes are remarkably passionate. The hero, Lord Thomas Armstrong, is absurdly sure of himself, extraordinarily sexually talented, and gorgeous. The heroine, Lady Amelia Bertram, is sharp-tongued, headstrong, and, of course, beautiful. Their story, a loose retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, is both predictable and entertaining.
Amelia, at 19, has caused no end of problems for her widowed father. She has twice tried to run off with unsuitable suitors, is routinely shockingly rude, and refuses to marry any of the gentlemen who court her. Frankly, she’s often a brat. She is particularly discourteous to the handsome Viscount Armstrong, whom her father has mentored for several years — Thomas’s father died when he was just out of Eton. Amelia resents Thomas Armstrong’s closeness with her father, for she feels her father has woefully neglected her since her mother’s death when Amelia was thirteen. For his part, Thomas finds Amelia to be a “disrespectful termagant.” The first time they were introduced — a year prior to this novel — she insulted him at a ball by calling him “at best a rake about town, and, at worst a debaucher of women and maiden sensibilities.” If she’d been a man, he’d have thrashed her. Instead, he has since avoided her.
Harry, Amelia’s father, knows the two dislike one another; nonetheless he asks if Thomas will take Amelia into his (chaperoned) care while Harry spends several months in America completing business for the shipping company the two are part-owners of. Thomas flatly refuses…until later that week, when Amelia again humiliates him at a ball by saying, very loudly, she’d bet her dowry his reputation as a great lover is wildly overrated. Thomas, now out for revenge, agrees to take Amelia into his care where his word will be her law for the next four months. The two of them travel to his country estate where their sexy battle of the sexes begins.
The best part about this book is the humor and sexual tension between Amelia and Thomas. Neither of them is especially likable but they are interesting and clever. Thomas is an ultra alpha-male, but he is never cruel or mean as he battles Amelia for control of their changing relationship. They banter very well. They fall in lust long before they fall in love — both guard their hearts carefully due to their pasts — and their frequent physical encounters are satisfyingly steamy. (If you are annoyed by the “virgin jumps into bed with the hot hero despite the mores of the times” plotline, this book is not for you.) But witty repartee and hot sex alone do not a great book make, and, in the latter third of the book, both Thomas and Amelia make unbelievable choices that are irritatingly self-destructive. The penultimate conflict that drives them apart is silly and their reconciliation then rushed.
A Taste of Desire is second in a series Ms. Kendall calls The Elusive Lords. The lords of the series are three friends: Thomas, James and Alex. I read the first book, Sinful Surrender – the story of James and Thomas’s sister Missy — and will, I’m sure, read Alex’s tale as well. For despite the plot weaknesses in Ms. Kendall’s first two books, they are sizzling, enjoyable reads. I can definitely recommend A Taste of Desire – for, ahem, fans of sensual romance.