Cerise Lindsay has finished her art schooling, thanks to her older sister Maddie. Unfortunately, Maddie never knew what a wonderful artist her sister became because Maddie “accidentally” died. Risa is not convinced that the boating mishap was truly an accident because Maddie was an excellent sailor, even on rough waters. Risa desperately needs to discover the details of Maddie’s last days, for her own peace of mind, and to determine the reason behind the strange debts Maddie owed. Risa is now the heiress of a large collection of fine art, the title of Countess of Rossborough, and the de Ros lands. However, due to a legal clause determined long ago, none of the de Ros art or lands can be sold.
While beginning to trace Maddie’s bizarre last days, Risa stumbles across a fascinating man, also an artist. He happens to be Blake Hargrove, the Earl of Sandown. Sadly, he is at the top of Risa’s list of suspects in Maddie’s death. Risa’s aunt certainly has no lost love for Blake. Blake is a renowned rake, not interested in long term relationships. He feels an immediate attraction for Risa, but more importantly, he is attracted to and understands her passion for her art. Blake stopped sculpting, but it never left his soul.
Two of the best aspects of this book were the immediate attraction Risa and Blake feel for each other, but decided not to act upon without a deeper emotional connection between them, and the beautiful communication between them. These two become friends, and not only talk about Risa’s investigation into her sister’s death, but topics that are important to them. There is none of the, “We just met. I want you, let’s get into bed.” “Why sure, you big strong hunk”, type of conversation found here. That is not to say that the love scenes are lost, they happen naturally in the course of their relationship.
Their relationship is one of the strongest I’ve read. By this I mean, even without the epilogue, the reader knows their relationship will survive. They have much in common, they can talk like “real” adults, and they also comfort each other without using sex! Both are strong characters, and Risa refuses to let her aunt dictate her life or her relationships.
Although I had an idea later in the book of who the villain might be, I had no idea of the motive behind Maddie’s death. I found the mystery subplot to be original, but not overwhelming to the story.
So why isn’t this book a Desert Island Keeper? While I can say that I truly liked this book, I didn’t love it. I debated over the grade, and when I realized I was debating over Desert Isle status, I knew that it wasn’t one for me. Some small part of the emotional reaction was missing for me. I hope that someone else can do a DIK review for this one. My other wish was that statues like Allure and Devotion did exist, because they sounded beautiful.