Ambrosia Tisdale is the very picture of propriety and the epitome of what a respectable young lady should be. Haunted by a memory and compelled by her family, she pursues perfection to a fault.
The Earl of Bristol, Duncan Maddox, has returned to London after years of familial-imposed exile. As the second son, he has led a life filled with frivolity, leisure, and a healthy dose of debauchery. Now his older brother has died, leaving the family’s flailing legacy in Duncan’s unwilling arms.
At the behest of his uncle, Duncan is advised to do the one thing that could provide instant fortune and respectability—he must marry. But there is only one prospect who meets the unique requirements to solve all the Earl’s problems—the lovely Miss Ambrosia Tisdale. But securing the prudent daughter of a Viscount’s hand proves to be more challenging than this scandal-ridden second son of an Earl has bargained for.
With scandal, extortion, treachery, and even love itself threatening to keep him from his goal, will Duncan succeed or find himself compromised by Miss Tisdale?
Duncan spun her around the room with a grace that was unprecedented, despite her extensive experience. She was suddenly very aware of her own awkward steps. Ambrosia raised her eyes to look into his, taking note of just how many lines crinkled at the corners when he smiled – which was often. He smiled much like her sister Tamsin – unadulterated, as if no care in the world can dampen their spirits. She was often jealous of her sister’s easy joy, but as she basked under the light of his, she too felt a bit more carefree.
And that was what attracted her to this wicked man – the expectations of society, of her family, and herself were made lighter by proxy.
The music coming from the orchestra drowned out the other couples and the spinning made her feel as if she were in some sort of inebriated state, despite only indulging in only two cups of ratafia. Ambrosia was by no means a dainty woman, but in his arms she felt as if she were light as air.
Duncan appeared cheerful, but not nearly as heady as she felt. “I hope you find my dancing agreeable. It is somewhat an area of pride for me. When I was younger, my uncle insisted I learn to dance well, and years later I am eternally grateful for the skill. In fact, I’ve been told many times that it is certainly the best thing I do . . . on two feet.” The gold flecks in his eyes flashed with the wicked innuendo of his statement.
Publisher and Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, November 5, 2013
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical romance
Heat level: 2
Reviewer rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
I thoroughly enjoyed this charming and beautifully written début novel.
Miss Ambrosia Tisdale, the eldest of four floral-named sisters, the others being Tamsin, Rose, & Lilly – is enduring her fourth London Season. A serious young woman, she seeks a good match with a good man. She has felt the responsibility of being the best that she can be ever since her beloved brother, the family’s only son, Thomas, died. She’s good with numbers and helps her father keep his estate ledgers, but she also excels at the feminine accomplishments including embroidery, drawing, and music. She is refined and smart but she realizes it is to her (and her family’s) advantage to marry well. In this way she reminded me of the very proper Amelia d’Orsay in Tessa Dare’s One Dance with a Duke. And, like Amelia, Ambrosia is both intrigued and shocked by Duncan’s scandalous reputation.
Duncan Maddox is the wild youngest son who inherits the mantle of earl after his brother’s untimely death; he never wanted nor expected to become the Earl of Bristol. His beloved uncle, Richard, who is dying, summons him to London and details his expectations for him: to marry a lady from an impeccable family and become a respectable and trustworthy peer. He will do this for his uncle, as he does not wish to disappoint him.
Ambrosia’s sisters are a delight and I really felt the love and warmth of the Tisdale family. Ambrosia is a mentor to them, a sort of mother hen, entreating them to be ladylike and admonishing them into good behavior. Lilly, the youngest, has already made a love match and is encouraging her eldest sister in her own quest for true love. Rose is a quiet bluestocking, and Tamsin is an outspoken tomboy. I loved the scene when Tamsin warns Duncan not to hurt Ambrosia or else. I can’t wait to read her story.
The romance between Ambrosia and Duncan is both sweet and exciting. I really enjoyed getting to know them as they got to know each other. The scene when she describes her involvement with a ladies’ society and admonishes him for being a gentleman of leisure is hilarious, yet I also felt Duncan’s shame and embarrassment that she saw him as a lazy, dissipated rogue when he was trying to flirt with her. The dialogue in the scenes when he calls upon her at home and their revealing talk in the garden as well as their shared waltz at the Tisdale ball is pleasurable and sincere. The author nicely shows their blossoming relationship and how Ambrosia steals Duncan’s heart when he least expects it, inspiring him to become a better man. In turn, he encourages her to live her life on her own terms instead of seeing it as an obligation and duty to her family.
Although Duncan is urged by his unscrupulous friend, James, to compromise Miss Tisdale into becoming his wife, the idea doesn’t sit well with Duncan. He prefers to woo and court her but she has no intention of falling for a rake and he has to work harder than he thought. And he is a rake. I was uncomfortable reading of the mornings after his nights of gambling and whoring; I prefer that the hero stop all that nonsense once he meets his heroine. However, this behavior matches Duncan’s debauched reputation as a libertine. He is confused and frightened by his growing feelings of respect and admiration for Ambrosia and feels like a guilty child for disappointing his uncle. I found it interesting that Duncan excluded married women from his amatory pursuits since he had bad memories of his own parents’ infidelities; a rake with principles. I’ve read historical romance novels where the hero sets out to seduce the heroine into marriage but falls hard for her instead – Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake comes to mind – the heroine finds out and the hero must grovel to make it up to her. This story didn’t take that path. Instead, Ambrosia discovers something that threatens Duncan and sets out to right that wrong. Of course, she finds out anyway but that isn’t the main conflict in the story. Instead, she reveals her true kindness and love for Duncan.
Ambrosia’s best friend, Amelia, isn’t a very good friend. I found her coarse, unsupportive, and very shallow as she (Amelia) feels that Ambrosia is just being too picky in choosing a husband. Amelia’s brother, James, the Duke of Kenning, is also Duncan’s good friend. James wants Ambrosia for a casual fling; he had formerly proposed to her but she refused him. I was a little worried this dilemma might take a nasty and unsavory turn – especially in the dangerously tense scene between James and Ambrosia at the theater early in the book – but thankfully, the author didn’t travel down that road. Instead, she reveals James to be the selfish and greedy cad that he is.
The only reason I’m giving this book 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because of the ending; for some reason, the author invoked God and prayer in Duncan’s plea to win Ambrosia’s heart. I found this odd and out of character because, up to this point, there is no mention of religion and a rake like Duncan has little use for it.
Though set in Regency London, this is more a novel of manners a la Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer rather than of historical events in a time period. If you prefer more history in your historical romances, this may not be the book for you.
But it is a very lovely novel of manners; funny, elegantly well-written, with realistic and interesting characters, strong themes of of family love and relationships, and a sexy and genuine romance. I look forward to reading more by this promising author.
About the Author
Jessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it – almost Chicago. Jessica originally attended college in hopes of achieving an English degree and writing the next great American novel. Ten years later she was working as a registered nurse and reading historical romance when she decided to give writing another go-round.
Jessica writes likes she speaks, which has a tendency to be fast paced and humorous. Jessica is heavily inspired by sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy to transport the reader into a story they miss long after the last page is read. She invites you to visit her at jessicajefferson.com and read her random romance musings.
Ms Jefferson will be giving away an $50 Amazon OR BN.com Gift Certificate to one lucky winner who will be selected at random across the tour. ENTER at Rafflecopter, below.