Lessons From A Scarlet Lady
by Emma Wildes, historical (2010)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22879-6

Lessons From A Scarlet Lady is a cute, if saucy, read, but it's mainly about little earthquakes that can happen in a relationship. You those, those small little tremors: nothing too significant, and in the long run, nothing too much to be concerned about.

Brianna Northfield is married to the man she loves, Colton Northfield, the Duke of Rolthven. However, he's so proper to the point of being maddening! He didn't even remove her nightie when they had marital relations in the first month they were married. When Brianna stumbles upon a banned book one day and decides to buy it, she decides that things will have to change. Using the tips on how to capture a man's attention and seduce him witless present in Lady Rothburg's Advice, she will change her marriage from a bloodless but amicable one into a full-bodied passionate affair complete with wild monkey love! Well, if only things are so easy. Colton is not the smartest man around, and while he certainly enjoys his wife's intimate attentions, he is soon plagued by insecurities and all. Where is the wife learning all these tricks from?

This couple doesn't have much of a story to fill up a full-length novel, so Ms Wildes offers another main storyline. Brianna's friend, Rebecca Marston, knows that she has to marry soon, but you know how it is. No other man but Colton's rakish brother, Robert, will do. Rebecca comes off as a bit shallow here, since her main attraction to Robert is mainly due to his looks and his rakish reputation, but because this is a romance novel, she gets what she wants in the end and doesn't live to regret it. Robert may seem like a rake, but he has hidden depths - he is actually quite a responsible fellow, having used his apparently limitless array of abilities for the War Office as well as the family. Robert doesn't stand to inherit, he's not even the spare, so it makes sense here that he does things for the War Office. I don't know what Ms Wildes's excuse is for the spare, Damien, to be equally involved in the War Office. Then again, if Stephanie Laurens can have her Dukes and Earls running wild in India saving the poor ignorant natives there from their local terrorists, I don't see why Ms Wildes can't have a few titled gentlemen playing spies here and there, eh? Back to Rebecca and Robert, their story is pleasantly readable. It's fine, but it doesn't offer me much that I haven't read many times before.

As for Brianna and Colton, their story is also pleasantly readable. Brianna surely works hard for the affections of the man she loves, and while I admire her tenacity, I wish the author has shown me more of why she loves that dolt so much. Honestly! Colton is such a stuffy twit. He has problems complimenting the wife - "adequate" is the best he can do. He learns that the wife is planning a surprise birthday party for him, and he immediately charges at her to dress her down about how he doesn't like disruptions to his schedule. He certainly likes the wife's sexual ministrations, but then proceeds to suspect that she's having an affair, even after she tells him that she loves him. What is his appeal supposed to be again? When Brianna finally has Colton where she has always wanted him, I'd say good for her, but for the life of me, I don't know why she wants anything to do with such a stuffy prig. It's not even that Colton looks very sexy when he is handing her thousand dollar bills to go on shopping sprees, because I'm told early on that Colton micromanages every aspect of his wife's lives from a distance, from approving her expenditures to the balls she chooses to attend. Maybe this is a My Fair Lady thing - I don't understand why My Fair Lady is considered a romantic movie, because I do not find Prof Henry Higgins an ideal romantic figure at all. To me, he's more like an unpleasant relative one has to put up with. So, maybe that's why I don't get Colton either. He's a more well-endowed Henry Higgins all dressed up in tight breeches.

Still, Lessons From A Scarlet Lady is an entertainingly written story that manages to keep the momentum of the story going for the most part despite the fact that I think Colton is just being a daft twit most of the time. I don't find this book particularly amazing, but reading it is a painless affair. It will do, I suppose. Hmm, do I sound like Colton or what?

Rating: 78

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