SETTING: England, 1851
HEROINE: Passion Dare
HERO: Mark Hawkemore
PART OF SERIES? Yes, book one of three
A woman called Passion. A man who would make her true to her name. In her second year of mourning, lovely young widow Passion Elizabeth Dare never dreamed she would be with a man again–and certainly not a complete stranger. But amidst the crowds of London’s Crystal Palace, Passion finds herself discreetly, yet insistently, pursued by a sensual gentleman who awakens her long-supressed desires. After a loveless marriage of restrained propriety, Passion abandons herself to true bliss for the first time.
Intoxicated by his encounter with the beautiful stranger, Mark Randolph Hawkmore, Earl of Langley, cannot wait to see her again. As a series of rapturous rendezvous follows, he and his mystery lover find something rare and wonderful blossoming between them. But a blackmail scheme against the Earl threatens to destroy everything. As a scandal brews, each will have to choose between duty and desire…their love for their families–and their love for each other.
MY SUMMARY: The story begins in England in May 1851. The heroine is Passion Dare, auburn hair, hazel eyes. Her age is not given. She'd been widowed for two years and had been married for three. The hero is Mark Hawkemore, dark brown hair and blue eyes. His age isn't given either. He's older than his brother, Matthew, and his brother was born in February 1825. It's 1851 so Matt would be 26 and Mark, the hero, would be a little older than that. I dislike when ages aren't given.
This story is easy to follow and I really enjoyed it. At the beginning, Passion and Mark first meet at an exibit at the Crystal Palace. He's there to catch a glimse of Passion's 16 year old cousin Charlotte, who he's to marry because he's being blackmailed by her mother Abigail. Abigail and his mother Lucinda used to be friends over twenty years ago. When Mark was little, his mother got pregnant with her son Matt. She stupidly wrote Abigail a letter telling her all about the pregnancy and Abigail has held on to the letter for over 26 years. Matt's father is their gardener but no one knows it but Mark, his mother and Abigail. Abigail says that if Mark doesn't marry her daughter she will expose Lucinda and Matt publicly.
Mark meets Passion at the exibit and they go off behind a screen and have sex. They agree to meet there the next day and and have sex again. They don't even ask each other's name. They begin a secret affair. Passion is staying with her aunt Matty for a few months and Charlotte comes to visit often. Probably 2/3 of the book is Passion and Mark having trysts. While this is going on, Mark has someone try to find the letter inside Abigail's home but he can't find it.
Near the end of the book, Passion meets the man Charlotte is to marry and discovers it's her lover, Mark. Mark had never told her he was going to marry someone and Charlotte never told Passion that the man she was to marry was named Mark. Passion tells Mark that their affair has to end because she won't continue a sexual relationship with her cousin's husband. Mark is all torn up and heartbroken over it.
The day of the wedding, Charlotte gives Mark the letter he's been searching for. It was given to her by a maid who wanted Charlotte to know about her mother's scheme. Charlotte didn't bother to read the letter and had no idea of its contents. Mark burned it right away. He explained everything to Charlotte and she decided to not marry him, since he was being blackmailed into it in the first place, even though he told her he'd still marry her so that she wouldn't be ruined by the scandal. That morning, the story of Matt's birth was printed in the papers anyway, even though Abigail promised to not do that if he married her daughter. We're not told who sent the letter to the newspaper. Since they were all ruined by the scandal that was about to come, they called the wedding off. Mark no longer had to protect his brother from finding out about his illegitimate birth so there was no reason at all to marry Charlotte. Passion then told Charlotte that she's in love with Mark, had been since before she knew they were engaged to each other.
Mark found Passion and told her he wanted to marry her. She told him she was pregnant and they got married. I'm getting ahead of myself but in the book that comes after this, it says Passion and Mark got married on June 30, 1851, which is only seven weeks after they met. The epilogue takes place one year later. They had an infant named Samuel and had sex while she was holding him.
MY THOUGHTS: Based on the extremely graphic sex, I'd give this book five stars. I liked the blackmail plot too so for that, I'd give it four stars. I liked all the main characters, including Mark's cold mother and Charlotte's scheming mother Abigail.
Passion was supposed to be so in love with Mark but I never once felt it. Even when she was crying her eyes out to him, I never once felt it was believable. An example of why I don't think she was that into him is when she'd told him that after her two months of visiting her aunt were up and she had to go back home, their affair had to end. He was upset at hearing that and like me, didn't understand why it had to end. They could have continued to see each other discreetly. That right there told me she wasn't too into him. Matt was clearly obsessed with Passion, right from the start. I really liked his intensity when it came to Passion. She didn't seem to feel the same way about him to me. But they had their happily-ever-after, so I guess she did love him.
Though this wasn't the greatest book ever written, it held my interest and had likeable characters. I never once got bored with it.
The next book in the series is about Mark's brother Matt and her sister Patience and I cannot wait to read it!