Friday, July 2, 2010

Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh

Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. BantamDell Publication. June 2009. ISBN #: 97803853. pb. 325 pp.

The story of the Huxtable siblings is completed with Seducing an Angel . Readers who began with the first book in this series have seen Stephen Huxtable grow from a seventeen year old with no future prospects higher than becoming someone's secretary or perhaps a vicar, into the Earl of Merton and head of the Huxtable family. This final installment in the Huxtable series introduces us to Stephen Huxtable as a man, and the most eligible bachelor of the Season.

As the Earl of Merton, and at the ripe age of twenty-five, Stephen Huxtable knows that it is time for him to think about taking a bride and setting up a nursery. His guardian, his second cousin, and his brothers-in-law have all schooled him in avoiding the most obvious of man-traps that the matchmaking mamas and their charges might lay for him. He has looked over the Season's crop of young ladies and has seen one or two who might be worthy of becoming his wife, but he would like to find the sort of love that has blessed his sisters. Unfortunately, none of the sweet young things he has met has stirred anything of that nature within his heart.

Cassandra Belmont, the notorious widowed Lady Paget, has her eye on Stephen. He seems exactly what she needs to provide a way out of her current situation. He appears to be innocently harmless, almost angelic, and if she must take on a lover to keep her financially sound, then he is her choice. She brazenly attends the one ball she thinks she has a chance of not being turned away from without an invitation in order to make his acquaintance. The Earl and Countess of Sheringford are no strangers to scandal and welcome Cassandra, much to her surprise. It appears that Cassandra's plan will succeed when Stephen agrees to set her up as his mistress.

Stephen is not quite the innocent that Cassandra believed. He has quickly seen through the mask she wears to the woman hiding behind it. Determined to help her clear her name and reclaim her place within polite society, he decides to become her friend rather than her lover. In doing so, he finds himself falling in love with her and becomes determined to win her love. Cassandra is falling for her Angel, as she has taken to thinking of him, but believes he deserves better than a woman tainted by scandal.

Cassandra's reputation is gradually being restored and it seems that Stephen has worked miracles in her life as she becomes reconciled with what remains of her family and finds friendship among the ton . Everything they worked towards is threatened in a careless moment when their growing feelings for one another are revealed. Stephen's actions to save what remains of her reputation could destroy the fragile thing growing between them for marriage is a state Cassandra never wishes to enter into again. To change her mind, Stephen must face the dark secrets that are hidden beneath the civility of some ton marriages and win not only Cassandra's heart, but most importantly, her trust.

In the fourth book of Huxtable family, Mary Balogh has taken the traditional formula for a romance and turned it around to create an engaging story of love and redemption. A woman left with few choices due to circumstances, Cassandra Belmont is not a traditional heroine. She is, if anything, an anti-heroine and a lovely one at that. When paired with the character of Stephen Huxtable as the quintessential hero this delightful reversal of roles makes for a love story that you will want to read with some tissues nearby.

Reviewed by Mairead Walpole.

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