Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate, has been a widow for three years. She believed her husband, Edward, was the love of her life, and when she lost him, she never thought she could love another nearly as much. She's spent most of the past three years in self-imposed seclusion, but upon her sister's prodding, she attended a country house party where she rekindled a friendship with Daniel Sutton, Lord Surbrook, who had been an old friend of Edward's. Now her book club, the Ladies Literary Society of London's latest selection is a scandalous and explicit memoir that has the ton all abuzz and Carolyn feeling a desire she thought had died with her husband. The man who keeps starring in her literary induced fantasies is none other than Daniel. Carolyn swore she would never give her heart to another, but can she allow herself to have an affair without her heart getting involved?
Years ago, Daniel was smitten by the mere sight of Carolyn and was making plans to pursue her just moments before Edward announced his engagement to the beauty. Ever since, Daniel has tried to keep his distance, not wanting to lust after his friend's wife, but with Edward gone, Daniel is now free to see what might have been. He has no real desire to be leg-shackled, but he longs to at least have an affair with Carolyn to see if it's all he thinks it might be. He simply didn't expect that once he'd seduced her into his bed that he wouldn't be able to get enough of her. But Carolyn's heart belongs to her dead husband, and Daniel has stubbornly locked his up tight as well. However, when a murderer sets their sights on Carolyn, will Daniel finally be spurred to declare his love, or will he lose that chance forever?
There are a few authors who always seem to give me great reads, and yet for some reason, they always end up on the back burner of my TBR pile. Jacquie D'Alessandro is just such an author. I've thoroughly enjoyed all of her books I've read to date, but somehow I keep overlooking her. I was stunned to find out that it had been four and a half years since I'd read Sleepless at Midnight, the first book of her Mayhem in Mayfair series. I loved it so much, I actually remember parts of the story, which I can't say about many books that it's been that long since I've read, making it seem like it had been a much shorter time span. I'll really have to try to move Ms. D'Alessandro up my reading priority list, because once again, she's given me an awesome read in Confessions at Midnight. This one is about Carolyn, the sister of the heroine of the previous book, and Daniel, the best friend of the hero of that same book. Theirs ended up being swoon-worthy romance at its finest, and I loved every minute I spent reading it.
Carolyn was widowed three years ago, when the husband who was the love of her life passed away. Since then she's been deeply in mourning and having a hard time going on living. She doesn't think she'll ever find the kind of love she once had again, so she doesn't really entertain any thoughts of another gentleman courting her. She was, however, pulled from her self-imposed isolation in the previous book when she attended a country house party with her sister and two best friends. There she rekindled her friendship with Daniel, who was an old friend of her husband's. She finds him attractive and intriguing, but because of his roguish air, she's been keeping their relationship completely platonic. Then the Ladies Literary Society of London, the book club Carolyn, her sister, and their two friends comprise, chooses Memoirs of a Mistress as their latest read. It's a salacious book with lots of erotic details that begin to make Carolyn miss the carnal pleasures she shared with her husband. And even more distressing to her is that Daniel is the one starring in her sensual fantasies. When he proposes that they become lovers, Carolyn is tempted beyond reason, but at the same time, she believes her heart will only ever belong to her dead husband and isn't certain if she can bring herself to have a casual affair, which is all she believes Daniel can offer.
Carolyn is a sweet heroine whom I loved. It was rather refreshing to have a widowed character who is still in love with their spouse instead of one who had a terrible marriage. Even though she doesn't think her heart is open to love when she begins her affair with Daniel, she's more ready for the possibility than she realizes. When she figures out that she's fallen in love with him, she doesn't fight it, although she does initially keep it to herself out of fear that he can't return that love, but thankfully it doesn't take long for everything to be cleared up. I also thought that Carolyn was the perfect mixture of sugar and spice. There's a sweetness about her in her kind and calm demeanor, but at the same time, Daniel has no trouble drawing out a deeply passionate side of her that was very different than what she experienced with her husband. I liked this, because I felt it showed how the two relationships were unique from one another.
Daniel was completely taken with Carolyn the moment he met her, which happened to be mere minutes before his friend, Edward, announced his engagement to her. This instantly ruined Daniel's plans to pursue her, but because he had such a strong reaction to her presence, he kept a certain distance after that out of respect for Edward. In the previous book, he attended his best friend, Matthew's house party, only because he knew Carolyn would be there. They renewed their friendship, but it wasn't until they returned to London that Daniel also renewed his plans to pursue her. At first, he has a hard time getting past her defenses, but once he does the payoff is immense and what he feels for her is far more intense than he ever could have imagined. As someone who has never planned to fall in love or marry, it's a daunting thought. Daniel projects the outward persona of an unrepentant rogue, but I loved how there were hidden depths to his character. I adored the fact that he takes in strays of all types, both human and animal, and that he found a sense of purpose in helping others, although this is a side of himself that he hides from public view. He also has a dark, tormenting secret from his past for which he feels he is to blame and that gives him feelings of unworthiness. I loved that Carolyn is the first person he's finally able to open up to about that. I also loved his protectiveness toward Carolyn when it becomes apparent that someone is offing his former lovers and trying to frame him for it. Then there's the fact that he's a dream lover who knows just the right things to say and do to bring out Carolyn's more daring side. Daniel was simply an all-around wonderful hero who is definitely going to rank high on my favorite romance heroes list.
I love that the main focus of the book was on Daniel and Carolyn, but there are a few notable secondary characters who really help round out the story and make it fun. Matthew and Sarah (Sleepless at Midnight) both put in appearances to support their best friend and sister respectively. Carolyn and Sarah's two best friends, Julianne and Emily, also show up a few times. Julianne will be paired with Gideon Mayne, the Bow Street Runner assigned to investigate the murders of Daniel's former lovers, in the next book, Seduced at Midnight. Emily, who is not at all impressed with American businessman, Logan Jennsen - which we all knows is a great recipe for romance ;-) - finds herself coupled with him in the final book of the series, Tempted at Midnight. I also very much liked Daniel's footman, Samuel, one of the many "strays" Daniel took in. And speaking of strays, I can't possibly not mention Daniel's menagerie of adorable misfit animals. I actually squeed in delight when Blinky, the black, one-eyed cat appeared, because I have an identical cat of my own.:-) And Naughty, the salty-mouthed parrot was a hoot.
Romances don't get much more perfect for me than Confessions at Midnight. I loved everything about both the hero and heroine as well as the secondary characters. The story is, at times, light-hearted, but at the same time, there's depth to both the characters and their story. There's a light mystery in the background to add a little intrigue as I speculated about who the killer might be. Then there's the utterly beautiful relationship between Daniel and Carolyn. They were absolutely perfect for one another in every way. The love scenes are deeply emotional and sensual, just the way I like them. I felt the connection between these two right from the start and it only got stronger as the story progressed. I can't think of a single thing I would have changed about it. Now the one thing I do need to change is not waiting so long to read the next book of the series.
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