Series: The Cabot Sisters #1
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN (February 25, 2014)
Desperate times call for daring measures as Honor Cabot, the eldest stepdaughter of the wealthy Earl of Beckington, awaits her family's ruin. Upon the earl's death she and her sisters stand to lose the luxury of their grand home—and their place on the pedestal of society—to their stepbrother and his social-climbing fiancée. Forced to act quickly, Honor makes a devil's bargain with the only rogue in London who can seduce her stepbrother's fiancée out of the Cabots' lives for good.
An illegitimate son of a duke, George Easton was born of scandal and grows his fortune through dangerous risks. But now he and Honor are dabbling in a perilous dance of seduction that puts her reputation and his jaded heart on the line. And as unexpected desire threatens to change the rules of their secret game, the stakes may become too high even for a notorious gambler and a determined, free-spirited debutante to handle.
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Honor Cabot has a tendency to do things that most of society wouldn't approve of. Walking into the gaming hells and sitting at a table to play cards with gentlemen and rakes is one such thing; avoiding marriage is another. But the time is drawing near where she will no longer be granted the freedom of her relative independence; her stepfather, the Earl, is in rapidly declining health, and her stepbrother is set to marry Monica Hargrove, a girl Honor has known all of her life. The rivalry between them is such that she is certain Monica intends to kick all of the Cabots--four sisters and a mother--out of the Beckington house as soon as she is able. Given that Honor's mother is becoming more obviously forgetful and confused, Honor finds herself in the uncomfortable situation of either diverting Monica from her stepbrother, or marrying someone herself.
Naturally, she enlists Mr. George Easton to try and tempt Monica away from Honor's stepbrother, Augustine.
George Easton is the bastard son of a duke, a nephew to the king, though no formal claim by his father was never made. He's known as a seducer of women and a gambler, a man who has risked his fortune on a ship meant to bring cotton from India. Said ship is currently lost at sea, leaving George unsure about his status. After losing one hundred pounds to Honor Cabot in a game of cards, he figures that the young lady is nothing but trouble. But her proposition, that he turn the head of Monica Hargrove, is utter insanity. Which he cannot, despite his attempts, resist.
What follows is a back-and-forth, as Honor tries to coach George into how to properly seduce Monica, while George demonstrates his competence...on Honor.
The electricity between the two characters was obvious, and their interactions were fiery. Honor is a strong woman whose aversion to marriage harkens back to a young love that didn't turn out well. The embarrassment and heart ache burned her, and since then she has steadfastly refused to accept any particular attentions. Her desire to thwart the marriage of her brother speaks more to her desire for things to remain the same, in the wake of changes that she cannot prevent: the decline of the Earl, her mother's deteriorating mental state, both well beyond her ability to control.
The love story between George and Honor was sweet in places and steamy in others; the last quarter of the book was utterly heart wrenching, as Honor struggled with her love of Easton against societal expectations about what makes a "good" match for a young woman of her standing. And there is one scene in particular, toward the end, that nearly cracked my heart in half. The author does a good job pulling the reader in: even if you sit there thinking that Honor is spoiled and kind of horrible for wanting to destroy her stepbrother's happiness, you learn more about who she is and find yourself hoping she can be happy.
And poor George Easton, always used, never acknowledged, and so certain he doesn't deserve the love of a woman like Honor. He is classically self-destructive, even if he does hide it behind a facade of gambling and risk-taking. But you can see how little praise he has for himself, and so when he pushes Honor away, you know it's only because he truly believes he doesn't deserve her.
This was one of those romances where I was really happy to see the couple get to their happily ever after.
Men around her bellowed with delight, calling out to George that he was a fool. He leaned forward and said, "And if you win?"
Honor swallowed and somehow managed to shuffle the deck without shaking. "If I win--" she glanced up, looked him directly in the eye "--you will extend an offer of marriage to me."