Chloe Heart became a ray of light in John Sexton's rather bleak life from the moment they met when she was only six and he was sixteen. They have been the best of friends ever since, and Chloe is the only person John has ever felt he could be himself with. Since he was merely a youth, John, aka "The Lord of Sex," has lived to pleasure ladies in the boudoir, but not a single one has ever captured his heart. He has also never allowed himself to think of Chloe in that way, even though she is now a grown woman. Chloe has been in love with John since she was just a girl, and she is determined to tame the wild rake and win his affection if it's the last thing she does. Following the adage, "absence makes the heart grow fonder," she went away for an extended stay in the Colonies in an attempt to bring him closer to her. They have been apart for eighteen long months, and when John comes to Chloe's side immediately upon her return, she knows she is already making headway. Under the guise that she wishes to follow in John's footsteps to become England's most notorious female rake and is in need of tutoring in the bedroom, Chloe boldly proposes that John marry her. The thought of Chloe being in another man's arms under any circumstances brings John unfamiliar pangs of jealously and heartache, so that it doesn't take long for him to agree to her ludicrous plan. Once they are married, John is hopelessly caught in Chloe's cunning web of seduction, and it will only be a matter of time before she is able to convince him of what she has know for years, that they are absolutely made for each other.
Dara Joy's Tonight or Never is a delightful romp that is equal parts humor, tender emotion, and red hot lovin'. All the characters are pretty lighthearted, and the whole story embodies a hilarity that frequently had me smiling and laughing. One example is a scene in which Chloe coshes John over the head with a vase (on purpose), followed by the couple running through the halls of the manor house stark naked. It nearly had me rolling on the floor. Many a time I found myself thinking that this book would make a great romantic comedy movie. It isn't just about the ruckus of fun and games though. There is a very sweetly emotional element to the plot as well, in the form of a long-held love between two best friends slowly being realized by one and then admitted by the other. The love scenes are frequent, thoroughly hot, and exquisitely sensual without crossing the line into the erotic. With the exception of Lisa Kleypas, I don't believe I have yet read any other author who can write multiple love scenes in one book so creatively, with each one being as luscious as the last, but still completely different from all the ones before. Anyone who is enchanted by the idea of love-making involving bathtubs, balconies, flower gardens and sensual massage should definitely read this book. Each scene was masterfully crafted and had me sighing with satisfaction. Tonight or Never doesn't have any suspense, danger or real villains. It's just good old-fashioned romance that is all about the relationship. There is a light mystery sub-plot surrounding French nobles, who had supposedly gone to the guillotine, but later show up on John and Chloe's doorstep, and the identity of their savior, The Black Rose. This made for a fun little side plot that I actually didn't figure out until nearly the moment it was revealed, but there was never anything to weigh down the overall lightness of the story.
I absolutely loved John and Chloe, and thought they were just made for each other. John is a dissolute rake, nicknamed "The Lord of Sex" by the ton, but he is actually hiding a sensitive soul behind his shameless womanizing ways. After seeing the pain of his mother's broken heart over his father's destructive gambling and early death, John subconsciously decided that he would never risk putting himself through the same thing and locked his heart up tight. John is mostly a beta hero with just a dash of alpha protectiveness and possessiveness. He tries a few times to play the dominating husband card with endearing results, because he's just too nice of a guy to make it stick. He's also the consummate lover who is more interested in sharing pleasure than conquering his lovely wife. He isn't a swashbuckling hero and isn't even particularly good at business. He's just simply the paramour who flits from one lady's bedroom to the next until Chloe puts a stop to that once and for all, giving him everything he's always wanted and more. Chloe is John's best friend in the whole world, and she is the only person he has ever felt like he could truly be himself with. They met when she was only six and he was sixteen, and for years he has played the big brother-type protector. By the time she was a teenager, Chloe knew exactly who she wanted to marry, and that was John. She bided her time until she was grown up, hoping that John would take notice of her as a woman. When he still didn't seem to, she put into action a cunning scheme to bring this notorious rake to heel. I love Chloe's determination to go after what she wanted, and that even from a young age, she seemed to always understand John better than he understood himself. She knew exactly the right "carrots" to dangle in front of him to gain his cooperation, and all it took was luring him into her web to get him to realize what he had always known, but couldn't acknowledge: Chloe was his soulmate. I thought that John's journey to that realization was rendered in a very natural and gradual way, making it seem more realistic. I also thoroughly enjoyed their witty bantering, and some of their interactions were reminiscent of my own relationship with my husband, making them completely relatable to me.
Tonight or Never had a riotous cast of supporting characters, starting with Chloe's grandmother, Simone and John's uncle, Maurice, who have a sweet long-term romance of their own that mirrors John and Chloe's. Again, I loved the sneakiness that Maurice used to get what he wanted as well. Then there is John's self-declared best friend, Percy, a hilarious fop who seems to think that fashion and what color to wear is cause for a personal emergency. The French guests who keep showing up at the door were equally funny, from the self-involved Zu-zu who thinks the world revolves around her, to Baronne Dufond who decides to wear John's prized model ship in her hair, to the seven Cyns, the Cyndreac brothers, who all look alike, chase every female in sight and cause general mayhem everywhere they go. In spite of their foibles, all were strangely likable. In fact, thinking of all their exploits is still making me laugh as I'm writing this.
After my last read which was quite dark, I was looking for something to lighten my mood, and I couldn't have made a better choice than Tonight or Never. It was a near perfect read for me in every way. The only thing that I thought could have improved it, would have been more explanation of John and Chloe's connection. As written, it was a rather magical thing that simply was. Their relationship was so sweet, tender and passionate, it wasn't at all difficult to see that their unbreakable bond was very real. It just would have been nice if the author had demonstrated it a little more, perhaps by adding more scenes from their youth. This was a fairly small thing though, that didn't really detract much from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Ms. Joy certainly has a talent with words, describing the character's expressions, actions and interactions in a way that drew me into the book and made me feel like I was right there with them. Any romance lover looking for a rollicking good read to lighten the day and lift their spirits, but that still has plenty of touching emotional depth, should look no further. Tonight or Never was a wonderful feel-good story that was a pure pleasure for me to read. It has earned a place on my keeper shelf for those times when I just need a little boost. This was my first read by Dara Joy, but it most definitely will not be my last. Tonight or Never is part of Lovespell's multi-author series, Legendary Lovers, but to my knowledge the books are all stand-alones with no connection to each other besides a running theme of them being based on the stories and legends of famous lovers. This one parodies Don Juan mixed with a sub-plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
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