AUDIO REVIEW: Treacherous Temptations by Victoria Vane, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman

Treacherous Temptations audoi
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A reluctant heiress resigned to her fate…

Mary Elizabeth Edwardes possesses one of the largest fortune’s in England, but has no desire to leave her quiet country existence… and even less to acquire a husband she cannot choose for herself.

A dissolute nobleman bent on retribution…

Trapped in a duplicitous existence since scandal destroyed his fortune and family name, Lord Hadley Blanchard has spent the better part of a decade posing as a disaffected exile while spying and seducing in the service of the English Crown.

A dangerous game of seduction, and intrigue…

By employing the full measure of his seductive charm, he woos the ward of the man who destroyed his life, little knowing that winning Mary’s fortune will mean risking his own treacherous heart.

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Publisher and Release Date: Victoria Vane, January 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Georgian London 1728
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars for content, 3.5 stars for narration

Review by Wendy

This enjoyable, well-written, wickedly sexy Georgian romance has a sweetly innocent heroine and a charming, dissolute rogue at its centre and – to add some extra intrigue – a malevolent, conniving stepmother.

Miss Mary Elizabeth Edwards finds herself an unwitting pawn in a dangerous game. She is a country girl, and though gently raised and very rich, she is no sophisticate and therefore ripe for manipulation. Lord Hadley Blanchard, the son of a disgraced earl, has been living a hand-to-mouth existence on the continent since his father’s suicide seven years previously. Whoring his way through life and also spying for the crown, he is decadent, charming and dependent on his step-mother, Barbara, Countess of Blanchard, for pin money in order to be able to continue his dissipated life style. She summons him back to England with a proposal that will make them both rich; he is to seduce and marry the unworldly Mary, the idea being that he and Barbara will carry on their torrid and incestuous affair while they live off Mary’s money. Hadley has grown tired of his uncertain, Tom-cat lifestyle, and wishes to cut his ties with Barbara and see his father’s name cleared, the Blanchard estates returned and his title re-instated.

Hadley’s puppet master, Sir Richard, was also the instrument of his father’s downfall and now a spymaster with his finger in many pies, he holds Hadley’s life in the palm of his hand and constantly tweaks the reins. He is also Mary’s guardian and in control of both her fortune and marriage prospects, with no intention whatsoever of allowing the disgraced earl’s son access to his ward. As well as controlling both Mary and Hadley he is also lover to the devious and depraved Barbara, Countess of Blanchard.

In this way, Victoria Vane has cleverly intertwined the main characters into a clever and plausible plot in this rather witty and risqué romp.

To begin with, Hadley’s charming exterior is artfully manufactured for the sole purpose of catching and ensnaring the innocent Mary, but soon he becomes enchanted with her innocence. His ennui and cynical attitude begin to drop away and the kind and generous young man who existed before his father’s disgrace and his own exile starts to re-emerge. Mary, although no fool, is nonetheless dazzled by the handsome and debonair nobleman.

The story takes a dark twist and suddenly Mary’s very life is in danger. Always having an eye to the main chance, her guardian has a list of influential men drawn up as possible candidates for her hand with no care for how sexually deviant or elderly they may be. All he cares about is that they will further his own political career, so Mary will go to the highest bidder.

With the developing – but secret – romance between Mary and Hadley kept under wraps, they tread a dangerous path while Hadley attempts to keep Mary safe. Certain revelations about Hadley’s past throw her into a dilemma, and she has nowhere to turn; no one to trust. Hadley has been hoist by his own petard. Now that he has found and recognised his love, and realises he wants nothing from her other than herself… but she does not believe him.

The narration by Stevie Zimmerman is really quite well done. She handles the large cast with confidence, portraying the devious and dastardly Barbara and the oily, corrupt Sir Richard particularly well. While Hadley is masquerading as a primped, powdered and pomaded Italian nobleman, she effects drawling, bored aristocratic tones, but as Hadley returns to his more honourable self, she effects a subtle change and adopts a pleasant, manly voice with just the right amount of inflection to render him more likeable. I didn’t really connect with her portrayal of Mary, however, who at times comes over as whinny and a bit pathetic, although Ms. Vane has written her as a strong, sensible character. My main complaint though, is with the production quality. There is a tinny, slightly echoey background, as if Ms. Zimmerman was recording in a tunnel and I found it quite disconcerting. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I rarely come across this problem.

On the whole, I enjoyed this audio version of Treacherous Temptations. it has a well thought out, plausible plot line and expertly captures the outrageously decadent and opulence of the Georgian era to a tee with sumptuous descriptions of the fashions, wigs, powders and patches of the times.

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