Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's been a few years since I read Madeline Hunter. But, I didn't forget how good her writing is. Her style has an authentic feel that I love to read in historical romances. I like her choice of words and her use of subtle wit. This story wasn't particularly steamy, and at first, I was disappointed at how mild the love scenes were. But, as I continued to read, I came to realize that they fit this story.
I love books in which the couple marries early, and the progression of the book shows how they come to know each other and fall in love as husband and wife. This book is no different. Sebastian and Audrianna had a very inauspicious start to their courtship, but it was deemed by fate, on many levels.
I liked and respected both Audrianna and Sebastian. I think Sebastian turned out to be a wonderful husband, even though he doubted that he would be. He was raised in the shadow of a big brother who was the perfect gentleman, and his harridan of a mother never let him forget that. When Morgan, the Marquess of Wittonbury, was wounded in the war, and paralyzed, he stepped in to attend to Morgan's duties as the Marquess. Sebastian felt like his identity had been absorbed into that of his brother, and that he would never live up to him. He married Audrianna mostly out of duty, although there was not a little bit of desire there, as well. His brother immediately liked Audrianna, which spurred him to offer for her when her reputation is ruined. Although it's perfectly innocent, it doesn't look like it; as they are caught together in an inn room where they both go to meet the man who might have information about the adulterated gunpowder that lead to soldiers' deaths, and ruined Audrianna's father's reputation. Despite the reason for marrying Audrianna, he treated her with kindness and respect, and listened to her, meeting her needs. Soonafter, he gave his heart to her fully. Audrianna rejected Sebastian's marriage proposal twice, and finally agreed, having doubts as to the success of her union. She resigned herself to a ton marriage in which a husband's unfaithfulness was a forgone conclusion. She had no idea how she had stolen her husband's heart.
This is a very strong, good read. It falls short of five star for me, because the passion seemed a bit muted, and it lacked a certain intensity that I like in a good historical. However, it's a very well-executed love story, with a captivating cast of secondary characters. I think it's also very successful as a historical; one in which I never felt like I was reading a modern book with window-dressing. This is one of those books I want to read when I yearn for a good historical, and I'm glad that Ms. Hunter delivered that reading experience to me.
I must say that Sebastian makes a very polite jealous/possessive hero, with some good quotes that show he won't be a man to be cuckolded:
"You will have to forgive me, Major Woodruffe. I am new to marriage, and perhaps more given to jealousy than some of the more experienced husbands that you know. It is possible that you seek only friendship with my wife. If, however, you entertain any other--"
-Sebastian to Woodruffe (Audrianna's ex-fiance who comes sniffing around her now that she's safely married to a man of influence)
"I assure you that such a thing is the furthest thing from my mind."
-Woodruffe to Sebastian
"Come now, Major. We are both men. Such ideas are never far from our minds at all. But if you do anything that causes me to think that your mind dwells long on that particular idea, I will thrash you, I will ruin you, and I will probably kill you. "
-Sebastian to Woodruffe
"I did indeed say you could have lovers. But I never promised that I would not kill them.
-Sebastian to Audrianna
Those moments gave me some glee, as I do love my jealous/possessive heroes. I was glad that he intended to do his best to be faithful. I admired that he said he would do his best. Since he is not a man to lie or to shirk his responsibilites, and he is very much in love with his wife, I have no doubts that he will be faithful to her for the duration of his marriage. Before, Sebastian seemed to be rootless, but he found his home in his wife. I don't expect him to return to his wandering, rakish former ways.
If you want to read a good, entertaining, historical romance that reads like a historical, I'd recommend Ravishing in Red. Ms. Hunter writes so beautifully, I feel you'll enjoy this novel.
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