Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving. Because Juliana Chase does not favor dark-haired men and longs for a husband who will “love her to distraction”, she immediately writes off James Trevor, the Earl of Stafford, when she meets him. Not only is he dark, but he practices medicine and actually takes his position in the House of Lords seriously. To Juliana’s way of thinking, it is obvious that even if James were likable, he would never have time to invest in the sort of grand love she dreams of finding. For his part, James still mourns the loss of his beloved wife to childbirth and, though he finds Juliana quite striking, is not entirely sure he wants another wife.
Fortunately, these two are given more than one opportunity to find their way to one another. Juliana’s brother Griffin is a school friend of James, and James and Juliana find themselves in a few of the same circles. Juliana is determined to win the affections of a fair-haired duke, but she also wants to see her dearest friend happy, so she persists in trying to arrange a match between James and her friend. However, the more time they spend together, the more James feels himself drawn to the vivacious Juliana.
As a heroine, I found Juliana likable, but she will likely be controversial with readers. She is impetuous, light, and sometimes giddy. Juliana is the sort of person who genuinely cares about people and wants to do good for others, but she sometimes acts before she thinks and gets in over her head. She is not TSTL, but neither is she overly gifted with common sense and sober practicality. Though not for everyone, her character is oddly endearing and I found her a refreshing change from the bland as day-old institutional cafeteria oatmeal heroines that seem to people Romance-land these days.
More importantly, Juliana is the perfect match for James, who is mourning the loss of his wife whom he loved deeply, while also feeling the responsibilities of both his medical clinic and of the title he never expected to inherit. James leads a very serious life which could easily become dreary, but Juliana’s intense zest for living shakes him up.
A note on the sensuality rating is in order. While the book does warrant a warm rating, all of the more explicit love scenes take place near the very end, giving the book a similar feel to the Regency trads I have been missing. In addition, it makes for a wonderful romance where the reader gets to see the hero and heroine fall in love and engage in actual conversations beyond the ” ‘I want you’ ‘And I want you too’ ‘Oh yeah? Well, I want you so badly it’s all I can do not to drag you behind that shrubbery over there.'” that I see passing for courtship in too many of the books I read these days.
If you miss the Regency trads of earlier years or if you simply long to read a European historical that does not involve spying or smuggling, Tempting Juliana is well worth reading. Though lighter in tone than many of the historicals I favor, Royal tells a good story here and her characters are quite endearing. I’ve not read any of her other books, but I have the feeling that this is a series I will have to follow.