You know an author has succeeded if you haven’t even finished the first book and you’re already hunting for others. And when you start to notice that the quoted authors on the cover are all ones you enjoy as well, you begin to wonder how the heck you could have missed the author’s books in the past.
Once Tempted, while not perfect, is enough of a genuine pleasure to send this reader out on a quest for Boyle’s backlist. This is the story of Olivia Sutton, who had her heart broken and her life ruined by the Marquis of Bradstone. While still in her teens Olivia had convinced herself that she was in love with the Marquis. He was using her to decode messages, and when he was about to be found out, framed her for murder. While he was presumed drowned when his ship went down, Olivia simply disappeared.
Seven years later the Marquis has returned in the form of Major Robert Danvers. He bears a striking resemblance to his cousin, the Marquis, and because of the time that has passed is able to impersonate him. His assignment is to search for information pertaining to a lost Spanish treasure. If he can find Olivia and avenge the death of his colleague, then so much the better. To complicate matters and the plot further, Olivia has heard of the Marquis’ return and plans to exact her own vengeance. As contrived as the plot sounds, Ms. Boyle manages to make the pieces fit together very neatly.
Example number one where the plot could have been ridden with clichés and wasn’t: When Olivia meets Robert as the Marquis, she knows there’s something different about him. And when they kiss, she’s sure. This was my first Yay! of the book. A Big Misunderstanding was averted and a heroine who actually stopped to think about the matter rather than just reacting.
Example number two where the interaction could have been overblown and wasn’t: This one will have to be a bit more vague to avoid spoilers, so suffice it to say Olivia finds out something about Robert that could have led to much angst and an over-the-top response if another author had written this book. Instead, Olivia and Robert both do some deep thinking and try to react accordingly.
Even the whole lost Spanish treasure element works. It’s believable that it exists, it’s understandable that everyone would like to find it, and it makes sense that it will become a stumbling block to the relationship. I even believed that Wellington would be interested in the thing, though that took some doing.
All of this sounds rather glowing so you’re probably wondering about the grade. Robert’s behavior as the book progresses and Olivia’s response to it is what keeps this from being a Desert Isle Keeper. He holds back on some very pertinent information for too long and when he does finally reveal all, Olivia reacts pretty passively. I know, I know, I’ve just been congratulating the author on her even-handed, thoughtful characters, but Robert’s actions and reactions to misinformation become obsessive. When Olivia discovers all, there’s barely a hitch in her feelings.
Readers of Julia Quinn and Christina Dodd (one of the authors who adds her endorsement to this book) will definitely find this to their taste. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did buy another by the author and liked it even better then this one. But that’s another review.