If He's Tempted
I believe that I have read every book that Hannah Howell has written. While each book in her medieval series has a predictability and formulaic feel, there is something about Howell’s books that is just comforting to me. Even so, there is not one of her medieval books that I would award a very high grade precisely because of that predictability. However, If He’s Tempted feels as if Howell has grown as a writer and is leaving the formula behind.
Olympia Wherlocke, like most of her kin has a secret. Paranormal abilities run rampant through her family and have caused them to be very wary of sharing their abilities with outsiders. But when Agatha Mallam comes calling, Olympia cannot turn her back on the desperate girl. It seems Agatha’s evil mother is attempting to marry her off to a despicable and diseased older man for a large sum of money. Agatha’s brother should actually be the head of the family and in charge of Agatha’s marriage, but he retreated into the country and a brandy bottle when the evil mother sent his betrothed to a workhouse where she subsequently died. Agatha wants Olympia’s help to reach her brother before her mother’s nefarious plans can take place.
Lord Brant Mallam, Earl of Fieldgate is a rake and a reprobate. He has been drowning his sorrows in drink and women to forget the death of his betrothed and the vicious betrayal by his own mother. When Olympia cannot contact Brant by post, she hies herself to his country manor to confront him about Agatha’s future. Olympia quickly discovers that Brant’s estate is almost completely staffed by his mother’s spies and that she has been slowly stealing his wealth along with something even more important. Once Brant is sober, he is appalled by his mother’s plan for Agatha and that is sufficient incentive for him to give up the bottle. While trying to come up with a solution to Agatha’s pending betrothal, an even more dastardly plot is uncovered and Olympia and Brant must work against the clock to save the day.
Olympia is a great heroine. As the layers of her character are peeled away during the course of the story, we learn what an extraordinary woman she truly is to have born all that life has thrown at her. Brant is not slow to discover this about Olympia and it is not long before there is a sizzling attraction. But Olympia is wary of Brant’s vast experience and her own lack of the same. As she grows to trust Brant, she begins to open her heart to the possibilities a love affair might present. Brant is so drenched in guilt that he cannot see how he could be worthy enough for Olympia, but she shines a light on the barren landscape of his life and he cannot let her go.
As Brant and Agatha’s mother, the Dowager Countess of Fieldgate is truly evil and her character barely escapes being a trite caricature. As plot after plot by the countess is uncovered, Wherlockes and Vaughns arrive to assist Olympia and Brant with all of their paranormal abilities in tow. Brant’s guilt takes a little too long to resolve, but the resolution is unexpected and works.
If you have tried a Hannah Howell book before and it was not to your taste, I recommend you try her one more time. I thoroughly enjoyed this ride.