by Anna Harrington
Series: The Secret Life of Scoundrels #2
Pub. Date: Feb. 23, 2016
Publisher: Forever / Grand Central
THE WICKEDEST SECRET...
Major Nathaniel Grey is free to bed whomever he wants, whenever he chooses, and that's exactly how he likes it. His only loyalties are to country and the two friends he served with—brothers he'd do anything for. So when one of them is gravely injured and asking for his little sister, Grey will move heaven and earth to bring her home. He's greeted not by the gangly girl he remembers, but a stunningly beautiful woman holding a loaded musket. And he's utterly captivated by her...
IS A SECRET SEDUCTION
Once upon a time, Emily would have loved nothing more than a stolen hour with her brother's best friend, the dashing officer who captured her heart and soul. But things are different now—and so is she. Gone is the eager young woman who believed in love. In her place is a widow weighed down with secrets who desperately needs to disappear before they're revealed. But Grey's sinfully sexy smile offers protection unlike anything she's ever known, tempting her to risk everything . . . even her heart.
I have been hearing great things about this new-to-me author, so I knew I had to try her out. It seems this is a "modern" historical series, in that it's a bit more steamy than your traditional historical romance. That fact was established very quickly, with the first sentence of this book:
In the shadows of the private opera box, Nathaniel Grey lowered the glass of whiskey from his lips and smiled down at the beautifully coiffed head bobbing at his crotch.
This provided such a great image of the scene, as well as our hero's persona and rakish demeanor.
Nathaniel Grey is a survivor with a secret. An orphan boy who fought his way out of a difficult childhood masquerading as the son of a blacksmith, he obtains a commission at the age of 18 to make a name for himself in the military. As a member of the Scarlet Scoundrels squadroon, he finds another kind of family in his squadroon brothers. However, while he may be thick as thieves with dukes and marquesses, Major Grey still walks the edge of society. He's not good enough for the nobility and has reached too far above the lower classes to be considered one of them. This does not stop women from flocking to his bed, and he has developed quite the reputation as a womanizer and ravisher of bored wives and widows. I loved Nathaniel. He was deliciously sensual for a historical hero, yet he had an air of vulnerability to his character as well. I also like see male camaraderie like what exists between Nathaniel, Thomas and Edward... brothers forged in war, loyal to a fault, and deeply connected friendships without being a he-man woman-haters club.
Emily Matteson Crenshaw is the recently widowed sister of Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney. Emily and Nathaniel have a bit of history - an incident that nearly ruined Grey's friendship with Thomas and had longstanding effects on Emily's life and future. I sympathized with what Emily endured during and after her marriage, yet I didn't like that she wanted to blame Nathaniel for the unintended consequences of her own rash act... especially since he had no knowledge of her circumstances. Luckily she gets over that fairly quickly and didn't turn into an annoying heroine. I loved the playfulness and passion that Grey brought out in Emily, even though she became somewhat self-sacrificing and stubborn towards the end. Even though you know the couple is most likely going to have a HEA, I was still glad when Emily and Nathaniel got theirs. I wold love to see an epilogue at the end of the series showing where the couples are a few years down the road.
The mystery/suspense aspect of the plot was subtle at times, but it also helped to move the story along. I haven't yet read the first book, Dukes Are Forever, but I am excited to do so now. There was some character crossover in this story, but I didn't feel like I was lost as I was reading, so I think you will be fine if you are starting in the middle like me.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Forever/Grand Central via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.