Thursday, November 17, 2016

Review & Blitz: Tempting the Earl by Rachael Miles

Title: Tempting the Earl
Author: Rachael Miles
Genre/Age: Historical Romance/Adult
Series: The Muses' Salon Series (Book Three)
Publisher: Zebra Shout
Format: ebook via Goddess Fish Promotions
Rating: ✺✺✺

Olivia Walgrave is finished with being a countess. Writing under a pen name, her controversial column for the scandal sheets provides her with some income and far more excitement than managing a country estate. Besides, in the three years since the wars have ended, her dashing husband hasn’t spent one night under their roof. So Olivia has prepared a plan, and an annulment. All she needs is his consent…

Harrison Walgrave, the Earl of Levesford, let his father coerce him into marriage, but his true devotion is to his Parliamentary career—and his secret work for the Home Office. Yet now, with freedom in his grasp, he finds he cannot so easily release his wife. Seeing her stirs a hunger no other woman has reached. A distraction now, when he is a breath away from revealing a ring of traitors, could be deadly. Still, wherever his investigations lead, the thought of Olivia lingers. It might be obsession. It might be treason. But the only way to escape the temptation is to succumb…

“As I remember, you owe me a game.”

“I do?”

“Yes. When I was last, we had each won one game out of three, but we never finished the set.”

She flushed, recalling how he’d circled the table and caught her, kissing her, until they had both discarded their cues. Pushing her aside, he’d taken her passionately on the green of the table.

“Ah, I see you remember, as well as I, the last game we played here.” Harrison grinned. “Would you like a rematch?”

Olivia swallowed before she answered. “Of which game?”

“Perhaps we should play to decide? But we will need a wager.”

“What do you have in mind?” She chose her cue, then held it away from her for examination, caressing the end slowly.

It was Harrison’s turn to swallow before speaking. “If I win, I…” His voice tapered off as he watched her stroke the cue up, then down.

She leaned forward. “Lacking imagination, my lord?” It was her job to make him want her, to make him think only of her, because when men lost themselves in their lovers, they also lost control of their secrets. She was to distract him, even if it broke her heart.

Harrison coughed and looked away. “I think you are trying to ensure you win.”

“I certainly intend to. Because the stakes are my body if I lose.”

He regarded her suspiciously, but with undeniable interest. “And if you win?”

She set the cue against the wall and stepped close to him, the space between their bodies a mere inch, close enough she could see the pulse in his neck increase. She lifted her eyes to see his filled with desire. “I’m sure you can forfeit something equally pleasurable.”

Rachael Miles has always loved a good romance, especially one with a bit of suspense and preferably a ghost. She is also a professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature whose students frequently find themselves reading the novels of Ann Radcliffe and other gothic tales. Rachael lives in her home state of Texas with her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs, and an ancient cat.

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**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for honest review.** 

Well, that was a complex story...

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Tempting the Earl is the third book of the Muses' Salon series. I have not read the first two books of the series and I am sure now that I should have at least read the first book before this one, if only to help me to decipher this vast array of characters and complicated plotlines.

Olivia is married to an absentee husband. Well, sort of. Harrison, her not-husband is a spy who has spent the past six years living separate from her and his estate. In Harrison's absence, Olivia has lived a secret life of her own, also as a spy. Yes, you read that correctly.

Harrison never wanted to take a bride. His father arranged his marriage and Harrison dutifully obliged. Afterward, he did give pursuing the union some consideration, but ultimately decided that it would be for the best if he allowed Olivia to live her life without his interference. Now, however, he has received word that his wife believes their marriage is invalid and wants to have it officially concluded.

But wait, there's more... A lot more, actually.

Not only does Olivia want to be free from her not-husband, she is being threatened by a person from her past who seeks revenge. If that weren't enough, there are others who wish to reveal her (yet another) secret identity as a scandalous columnist. She must keep her ruse up with disguise after disguise. And she isn't the only one pretending to be someone she isn't.

I had some trouble keeping up with this story, even early on. There are several plots occurring simultaneously and a lot of different characters to keep track of. And though the book is rather wordy, I found that it doesn't really explain things that I wanted to actually know about. It goes into great detail about past events and secondary characters are given too much emphasis, in my opinion. 

While I found the spy-columnist-revenge-mystery plotline to be interesting enough, I would rather have seen more attention paid to the main couple. For the first half of the book, Olivia and Harrison only spent two or three scenes in the same room. I think the delay of bringing our couple together did hinder their chemistry development. Yet, I really did like both of the characters and sincerely wanted to see them find happiness together. I even liked several of the secondary characters. I just wish we had gotten more alone time with our main couple.

In closing... 
A tale of espionage, regret, and reconciliation. Three suns!

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