This is the first romance by Beatrice Small I have ever read. Of course, I’ve heard all the talk about the heated sex scenes, but beyond that, I can claim total ignorance. So, when the chance to review Deceived came along, I jumped at it, just to see what all the hoopla was about. To quote Shakespeare, it was much ado about nothing.
Valerian Hawkesworth, Duke of Farminster, finds he has been engaged for years, via a marriage contract, to heiress Charlotte Kimberly from the West Indies. This rather comes as a surprise to Aurora, as Charlotte is known, but she is very sure she does not wish to be a duchess. Her stepsister, Calandra, whose second name also is Charlotte, would die for a title and riches, so the girls switch places, without informing Valerian, and the marriage takes place. When Aurora comes to England for her Season, she discovers that Calandra and Valerian are having a miserable marriage, which Aurora tries her best to improve, while becoming engaged to Valerian’s cousin, St. John. When Calandra dies in childbirth, the game is up and Valerian marries the true heiress within a week, which provokes a nasty scandal in London.
Aurora is a sporty, out-of-doors woman who enjoys both swimming naked in the Caribbean and the English country life. She acknowledges the demands of her body, but shows some restraint outside her marriage. Valerian is interested in agriculture, and in making his wife give him an heir. If his wife also happens to be a lusty woman like Aurora, so much the better.
There are plenty of sex scenes, and enjoyment of the various aspects of sex. While Aurora was technically a virgin until she married, if you demand an untouched and ignorant heroine, you should avoid this book. In fact, there were so many sex scenes, they were beginning to grow a bit predictable towards the end. The solution might have been to cut out a few, or go all the way into escalating kinkiness to keep this reader’s interest. I never thought sex scenes could bore me. Well, I was wrong.
Remove the sex and the lusting, and the plot emerges as the weakness of the book. Neither the background for the engagement to Charlotte rang true nor did Valerian’s grandmother’s discovery of the deception. The last third of the story, which deals with countering the scandal, is enjoyable, but radically different from the rest of the book in its flavor of marital happiness. And I felt terribly sorry for the immature Calandra, whose true cause of death was being married to the hero when the heroine had the hots for him – a “death by plot” device.
Deceived was an acceptable read, but didn’t do much for me. And what was it with “love juices” and “love grotto?” Does the author realize just how silly those terms are? New entries for the Purple Dictionary! This book didn’t shock me, but neither did it thrill me. It didn’t put me off ever reading another book by Ms. Small, but neither am I going out to buy her entire backlist. Trying to be objective, I would say this book will convert few new readers into fans. If you already like Ms. Small’s style, this book will probably not detract from your current feelings. Each to her own, I guess.