When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.
And then she disappears without a trace…
For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…
Heat Level 2.5
Reviewer rating: 4 stars
REVIEW BY JILL
Her beauty was staggering, excessive, as if she were not quite flesh and blood, but an artist’s conjuration, born of a bout of fevered ecstasy.Christian de Monfort, Duke of Lexington at nineteen was smitten. Venetia Fitzhugh Townsend, a married lady was simply the most beautiful woman Christian had ever seen. Two years later, Venetia’s husband dies. She remarries a wealthy, older man, and it is rumoured she had an affair with one of her second husband’s best friends. Christian now realised that the Great Beauty, was at heart shallow and greedy, encased in a beautiful, outer shell. But still, he remained a man obsessed.
Ten years later, Christian, a man of science, trained in natural history is at Harvard University to deliver a lecture. Venetia, her sister and sister-in-law are in attendance, but during question time are shocked when Christian blames Venetia (without naming her) for her first husband’s death and for callously allowing her second husband to die alone after flaunting her affair during their marriage.
When the opportunity for revenge presents itself, Venetia takes it. Disguised as Baronesse von Seidlitz-Hardenberg, she boards the same ship home to England as Christian, determined to make the Duke of Lexington pay.
Very few authors can make me forget my first rule-of-thumb when reading a romance. The romance. The romance in Sherry Thomas’s historicals doesn’t always work for me, yet invariably she wins me over. Most notably due to her unique and beautiful prose. Beguiling the Beauty runs true to form. The romance at times left me wanting. Yet, whilst on board ship Christian and Venetia’s romance was lovely. Their passion heartfelt and honest.
Some of the plot points are simply unbelievable, some predictable. As expected in a series there is quite a bit of time devoted to introducing characters who star in the upcoming books. The plot is couched in deception and misunderstandings, some of which are so slight a five minute conversation would clear the air.
Christian’s love-at-first-sight is based on nothing more than Venetia’s outstanding beauty. He’s a man as shallow as he believes she is. Implausibly, she keeps her identity secret on board ship by the use of a veil, or when they are alone, a blindfold for Christian. The irony is of course that he fell in love with a woman years ago because of her beautiful face. And now has fallen in love again despite never seeing her face. Venetia is so incredibly lovely that she makes men literally stare, stumble and obsess. Some of these themes are Harlequin-esque in their silliness.
Yet, Ms Thomas manages to pass off these overused and tedious plot devices, making the situations convincingly realistic, the characters’ stories compelling. This is one of her charms as a writer, being able to make me overlook these contrivances. Other writers haven’t the skill.
Sherry Thomas has once again in Beguiling the Beauty transcended what would be considered predictable and trivial in lesser novels through her prose, characterisations and detail, making you believe you’re reading a novel of much greater substance than it actually is.