Adrian Andrew Hawsley, Viscount Dere, used to be the predator, but lately his reputation as the most seductive lover in the ton, has him feeling more like the prey with all the ladies who have been pursuing him, seeking one night in his bed. Tired of being known as Scandalous Lord Dere, Adrian decides on New Year's Day that it is time for a new beginning. He sets out for his country estate with a vague notion of wanting to settle down and reconnect with his roots, but a violent snowstorm blows in before he reaches his home. With his carriage wrecked on the icy road and his servant injured, Adrian struggles the last half mile to the village and all but collapses on the stoop of one of the cottages.
Abigail Woolley was childhood friends with Adrian, and has never forgotten the one time in their youth eight years ago when they briefly became much more. When the nearly frozen viscount arrives on her doorstep, she can hardly believe her eyes, and is more than happy to offer him warmth and refuge from the raging blizzard outside. With the deep snow making it impossible for Adrian to return home anytime soon, he and Abby spend the next several days reconnecting in more ways than one, but Adrian will have his hands full convincing Abby that she is the one who has finally filled that empty place in his hopes and dreams of the future.
Scandalous Lord Dere is a tender, sensuous friends-to-lovers, reunion story, two of my favorite themes in romance. Stephanie Laurens seems to have a talent for writing richly descriptive prose that isn't at all boring, but instead draws the reader into the story as though they are actually there watching everything unfold. For a novella, I thought that the characterizations and plot were extremely well-developed. Adrian is a rake to be sure, but surprisingly gentle, vulnerable and sympathetic, which is my favorite kind of alpha hero. I loved his possessiveness and his persistence in getting Abby to agree to marry him. Abby was a kind-hearted young woman who had never forgotten her one-time lover, Adrian, but he had also unknowingly broken her heart all those years ago, making her reluctant to accept his proposal now. I thought it was sweet that out of the countless women Adrian had seduced over the years, Abby was the only one he could truly remember in detail even though they had only made love once eight years before. I also like that he had become tired and fed up with his rakish lifestyle and wanted to turn over a new leaf. At the heart of it all, Adrian was a great guy who had simply gotten off track in his wild youth, but what better time for new beginnings than on New Year's Day, the day that he reconnected with Abby, the only woman who had ever truly understood him and that he had ever really cared about.
I found it very endearing that these two were childhood friends who later became more, and was totally enamored of the deep intimacy Adrian and Abby shared. It was often in their quieter moments that this showed through the most. I loved reading about them simply sitting together in Adrian's study while she sketched and he worked. They also had a mutual love of books that I could relate to and their impromptu waltz in the park was very romantic. I just thought these two were completely perfect for one another, and their love scenes absolutely sizzled. Stephanie Laurens is very good at writing varied love scenes that are powerfully passionate and lushly sensual. In general her writing style reminds me a lot of Lisa Kleypas which is a very good thing in my book. It is a rare author who can write a short story and make me feel fully satisfied from beginning to end. This was my first read by Ms. Laurens, and she has impressed me so much, I can say with certainly that it won't be my last. I'm very much looking forward to trying more of her books soon. Scandalous Lord Dere is found in the Secrets of a Perfect Night anthology.
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