As a masked ball reaches its fever pitch, Cybelline Caldwell surrenders to the embrace of a midnight lover, a stranger who seals her fate. By morning the wanton seductress has been replaced by a determinedly sensible woman preparing to leave London -- and its memories. Yet temptation follows. For Christopher Hollins, Earl of Ferrin, the notorious rake she so brazenly challenged, vows to show her that one night was not enough.
It took some clever detective work, but Ferrin uncovered the identity of his mystery lover, surprised and intrigued to come face to face with Cybelline. Soon he discovers she is a woman of mystery -- and a woman in danger, stalked by a ruthless enemy. Unable to erase the searing memory of Cybelline in his arms, Ferrin knows he must discover the secrets that shadow her days -- for only then can he claim all of her nights.
Aaahhhh, the masquerade ball. Scene of many an indiscretion in historical romance novels. The thrill of being able to act in a way that is completely out of character without any risk of knowing who it is.
For Mrs Cybelline Caldwell the opportunity to attend a masked ball alone is a rare chance to be in society. As a widow, she has long been in mourning and therefore excluded from society, but the other issue is that she knows that it is not only that her husband is dead that prevents her from normally joining in in society, but it is also a lot to do with the way he died. Cybelline is however a lady with certain needs, and she has set her sights on an act of passion with a certain rake.
The only problem is that whilst Christopher Hollings, Earl of Ferrin has carefully crafted the persona of rake around town, he really isn't, and when their midnight rendezvous comes to an end he is determined to track down the identity of his lover.
Cybelline has decamped to the country, and is happy enough there. However, when she comes down with a terrible illness, she is most surprised to find herself being cared for by Ferrin, albeit with a different identity. As Ferrin and Cybelline spend more time together, their feelings grow stronger, although not only romantically. Often they clash, particularly with Ferrin becoming aware of a threat to the woman that he cares for.
The suspense sub plot in this novel was really well done. Quite often those subplots in historical romance novels feature completely over the top villains, who you can just hear laughing dastardly from the sidelines as the hero and heroine begin to fall in love. In this novel, the threat to Cybelline seems a little innocuous at first, building towards a tight and suspenseful climax.
There was also a delightful secondary romance that was just hinted at, never overwhelming the main romance in the book.
As to the characters, well, who wouldn't want a man like Ferrin. Handsome, assured, self sufficient, honourable, passionate. Mmmm...yes please! Cybelline was well written too, determined about what she wanted. You know that I am all about the hero though!
I will definitely be reading more by Jo Goodman. The only thing that I was a bit surprised by was that on her website this book looks as though it is standalone, but really it features characters from an early book (Cybelline's brother and his wife are from A Season to be Sinful) and it appears that the next book after this one was about Ferrin's step brother (If His Kiss is Wicked). I don't know why you wouldn't show that they are linked together.
By the way, the girls over at Book Binge have coincidentally announced that they are having a Read Jo Goodman Crusade where they are determined to bring this author to the attention of more readers.