Desert Isle Keeper
Sweet Enemy is a sensual romantic suspense with characters that have brains and passion, and are not afraid to put both to good use. Unlike so many other Regencies, almost everything from the setting to the characters to the suspense comes with a twist and never feels clichéd. This in itself made this book a great page-turner long into the midnight hours.
Geoffrey Wentworth, Earl of Stratford, is a war veteran who wants to use his position to push through radical measures that benefit the poor. He knows he must marry someone who can be the right political hostess, but he also has a list of personality requirements. The foremost of these requirements is that his wife should not be as deceitful or manipulative as his mother. Lady Stratford is at her manipulative best when she summons Geoffrey home for an urgent issue that turns out to be a house party arranged for the purpose of picking his bride. To ensure Geoffrey stays through the house party, she has invited key political allies whom Geoffrey cannot afford to offend by leaving. She arms her favorite prospective brides’ families with inside information so Geoffrey is forced to pick the bride she deems suitable or risk losing their support for his Parliament bill.
Liliana Claremont is an independent woman with a passion for chemistry. She has no intention of marrying, and her only aspiration is to be admitted to the Royal Society as the first female scientist. She accidentally learns that her father’s untimely death was a murder, and devotes her scientific mind to finding the cause and culprit. Her clues point back to the Earl of Stratford, so she begs her aunt to secure an invitation to Lady Stratford’s house party.
Geoffrey and Liliana clash with wit, intellect and desire when they first come together. Neither wants to get married, yet they are both drawn to each other through circumstance or choice in the early days of the house party. While Liliana continues to dig deeper into the mystery, she discovers that the Earl of Stratford’s father was also murdered shortly after her own. Geoffrey and Liliana fall in love as they spend time together. First they realize neither wants to be married, and then realize they don’t want to be apart. Before they can be together though, they deal with heartache as they uncover each other’s secrets and a web of deceit that lies broader within one of their families.
Sweet Enemy is wonderful in so many ways. Regency romance can be a very clichéd genre. It is rare to find “fresh” characters, plot, or dialogue. Liliana is very unconventional as a Regency heroine, a scientist who does not want to wed so she can continue to pursue her love of chemistry. She is uncomfortable in social situations, or with social attention. But she sparkles with intelligence, wagers with her intellect, and has the funniest swear words (“Newton’s Apple”). Geoffrey is a wonderful hero who doesn’t fall over just for beauty, understands and respects a woman’s intellect, and stands up for Liliana when she is on the verge of being socially ostracized for daring to take on and win against an Earl in a challenge. It is rare to have a heroine who can think of something other than marriage and love, and equally rare for a hero to be so accepting of an unconventional heroine in Regencies, so I really appreciated and enjoyed reading these characters in the story. Each facet of the primary characters’ personalities is well developed, woven into their actions and thoughts, and turns out to be important to the story overall.Both Geoffrey and I learned interesting little tidbits about chemistry – the subject – throughout the book, never in an overbearing way and always within the context of the story. The chemistry that is worth highlighting is between the characters. The slow buildup of attraction is very well executed, and the love scenes are wonderful. Liliana, the scientist, realizes she wants to explore sexual desire with Geoffrey by being friends with benefits – without the threat of marriage between them. Geoffrey plans to get her “addicted” to him by slow but always more-than-the-last-time exploration of each other’s bodies. This exploration got me addicted to the love scenes in this book and waiting for more. I found I did not want to skip a single word of any of the love scenes for fear of missing out how not only he led them, but she led them too in unusual positions. Yes, unusual as in – “Someday, I will make love to you in a bed.”
I also enjoyed the suspense within the plot. It built at the right pace and did not take over the romance. The twists are unexpected, but each part of it that is revealed stays true to the logical thinking of a scientist and doesn’t feel contrived.
My only criticism of the book is that I would have liked to see a bit more dialogue. The author gave us a wonderful view into the characters’ minds, but more verbal interaction would have been more showing and less telling. Other than that, it was a wonderful, emotional, and intellectually satisfying read. Considering that this is Heather Snow’s debut book, I think it is an outstanding effort. I look forward to Lord Aveline’s story as the next in the Veiled Seduction series.