SCANDALOUS WOMEN OF THE TON SERIES BOOK 1
Lady Joanna Ware has no desire to wed again but that doesn’t stop the flurry of suitors knocking on her door. Desperate to thwart another proposal, Joanna brazenly kisses Arctic explorer Alex, Lord Grant. Unable to deny the blazing attraction that flares, Joanna knows she’s just set the gossip mill turning.
After suffering countless infidelities during her marriage, she’s accustomed to scandal. But nothing prepares her for the shocking news that her deceased husband has bequeathed his illegitimate child to her and his friend Alex. As rumors run rampant in the ton, Joanna and Alex travel to the Arctic to claim the orphan. Battling blizzards, dangerous wildlife and a treacherous plot, Alex must protect Joanna, but not before he wickedly seduces her …
Ms. Cornick has created an intense and emotional story exploring the complex relationship between Joanna and Alex. She brilliantly conveys the initial hostility between them with her scathing repartee. This is Joanna’s response to Alex’s criticism of her way of life:
“You know nothing of my way of life, Lord Grant, other than what is based on David’s lies and your own arrogant assumptions!” Her tone dripped disdain. “If it comes to that, you are the one who rackets about the world like a poorly aimed cannonball. You may provide materially for your family but you have no interest in engaging with them in any emotional sense”.
I understand Alex’s reluctance to accept that David Ware was not the honourable man he thought him to be. They had a close friendship based on their mutual love of exploring. Then there’s the fact that David had saved his life. There would be no reason for Alex to disbelieve the rumours he heard about Joanna. I like the way in which Alex’s preconceptions about Joanna are slowly stripped away as he discovers that she is vulnerable, caring and brave.
He is slow to admit his deep feelings for Joanna because the death of his first wife, Amelia, has left him reluctant to enter into any deep relationship. His guilt over Amelia’s death drives him to constantly accept dangerous assignments. It is almost as though he has a death wish.
I like Joanna and feel great sympathy for her. The lifestyle she leads, although lacking any apparent substance, was originally her way of coping with the trauma of her disastrous marriage. I admire her strength in leaving David and making a life for herself. Her initial dislike of Alex is understandable given her previous experiences with her husband but, gradually, she appreciates that Alex is nothing like David. He doesn’t court fame and popularity as her husband had and, although he is physically strong, she knows that Alex would never use that strength to hurt anyone.
Even during the quarrels between Joanna and Alex, Ms Cornick’s superb writing style allows you to sense the sexual tension simmering just beneath the surface. I love the scene where Joanna intends to seduce Alex into marrying her, but can’t go through with it. Alex turns the tables on her, saying that he won’t marry her unless she seduces him. The love scene which follows is sizzling! Here’s a little teaser:
‘He picked her up and tossed her on the bed. It was so sudden and shocking that she lay there, winded for a moment. He was kneeling above her and he looked huge and powerful and shockingly masculine and she felt her heart race with a mixture of apprehension and fascination and the most wicked, wicked delight.’
Lottie Cummings, Joanna’s closest friend, is an interesting character. On the surface, she is frivolous, immoral and selfish, but I believe that underneath this façade, she is lonely and unfulfilled. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in this series One Wicked Sin which is Lottie’s story. Quite how Ms Cornick is going to transform Lottie in to a true heroine I’m not quite sure, but I look forward to finding out!
What a nasty piece of work David Ware was. He’s lucky that he is already dead; otherwise I would like to have seen him strung up by a certain part of his anatomy!
Ms Cornick vividly conveys the stark beauty of the Arctic Circle and the dangers lurking there.
There are lovely touches of humour as well:
“It is hoped that you can navigate your way better across the frozen wastes than you can around a woman’s body, or you may end in Spain rather than Spitsbergen.”
“I fear I would need to know you a great deal more intimately before I strip off in your ballroom or indeed any other room.”
“I came here to seduce you”, Joanna said in a rush.
“Excuse me, my lord,” Frazer said into the silence that followed. “I do not believe I should be present at a moment like this.”
VERDICT: A WINNING BLEND OF PASSIONATE LOVE STORY AND INTREPID ADVENTURE