Synopsis from Goodreads: Third in the Merry Widows series From the moment Daphne, Lady Pomeroy, meets the mysterious Marquess of Hartwell at a masquerade ball, she’s determined to seduce him. The handsome, charming man cannot possibly be the cold, calculating lord who Society calls “Black Hart.” Risking everything, the lonely widow invites the elusive Hartwell to her dinner party . . . for two.
Hartwell’s arrogant reputation is built on a lie. For he has a shameful secret that keeps him in the shadows: a stutter—his downfall since childhood. He’d rather keep his mouth shut than look the fool. But he’s shocked to discover that in Daphne’s company—and in her bed—his stutter vanishes.
After one wanton evening together, Daphne is hurt when the lord lives up to his Black Hart name. Yet his reasons for leaving surprise even him. Now he must confess everything or risk losing Daphne forever…
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Lady Daphne Pomeroy is a widower at the ripe old age of thirty-three. She has a fine if somewhat boring life living with her bachelor brother, Hugh. She has money, a bit of status, and absolutely no designs on bagging a new beau. And then one day her lovely brother mentions the possibility of a ball; a grand affair with costumes and masks that will allow his sister to re-enter London society. According to Hugh “We can invite a herd of titled gentlemen who are in dire need of a wife and line them up for your perusal.”
At first Daphne is a bit scandalized by the thought of such an affair but as the planning continues and the date draws closer she begins to see the masquerade as a romantic affair that will provide her with an excuse to dance, laugh, and just enjoy the night. All is going according to plan until Daphne spots a wonderfully handsome masked man from across the room. At once Lady Daphne determines that this fine gentleman will be hers. The only problem with her plan? The masked man is none other than the Marquess of Hartwell or as London society commonly refers to him “Black Hart”. Black Hart is well positioned in society, has loads of money, and absolutely no desire to socialize. They only thing anyone really knows about him is that he is openly rude and rarely ever speaks to anyone. If only they knew . . . .
Daphne is bound and determined to know Hartwell! Breaking with all tradition and good manners Daphne pursues Hartwell first for a simple dance, then a conversation and a kiss, and then a night neither of them will soon forget. As a widower, Daphne is less concerned with a scandal attaching itself to her and her good name and more concerned with pursuing Hartwell and finally understanding the meaning of true passion and desire. Daphne is absolutely certain Hartwell is not the man everyone thinks he is.
Hartwell simply doesn’t know what to think or do with the beautiful and intriguing Lady Pomeroy. She defies every standard set by 19th century London society when she openly pursues him. And, while Hartwell isn’t actually the cold and heartless rat bastard everyone thinks he is, he is still gentleman and is concerned with ruining Lady Pomeroy’s good name. But there is something about her that he just cannot resist.
The highlight of this novella is far and away its characters. Daphne is a woman after my own heart: she is unashamed by her desire and willing to fly in the face of tradition to pursue her desires. She isn’t wanton or low-class by any means but sure of herself, her desires, and her ability to win over the gorgeous Marquess. Daphne is also kind and caring and despite a few bumps in the road is patient and understanding where Hartwell is concerned. Hartwell is never really portrayed as a heartless or black-hearted character, just a man with a secret that he is not willing to share with just anyone. Hartwell is, in all actuality a good if lonely man with a kind heart and a burning desire for Lady Daphne. Daphne and Hartwell’s lust-filled night together is quite fun for everyone, including the reader. The only problem with their night together is Hartwell’s sudden and extended disappearance the very next day. Didn’t I just say he isn’t a cold-hearted rat bastard?? Well, I am not spoiling this for you; you’ll just have to find out what happens for yourself.
The bottom line: This is a quick (30-45 minute) historical romance for adults only that is sweet, lusty, and full of fun. Daphne and Hartwell are both good and relatable characters that the reader can care about almost immediately. The only thing keeping me from rating this as a full 5 stars is length. (There is so no pun intended here!) Since I did like both characters so much (and their sex) I would have liked to have known more about them; that is, I would have liked a longer story with more naughty bits.