4 steamy opposites attract stars
Reviewed in the United States on 2 November 2019
Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, is known to be the womanizer of Spindle Cove, and he makes no apologies for it. After all, he is pretty much stuck there and has to get by somehow. His cousin, Bram (H from book #1 in the series) holds the purse strings to his inheritance until Colin's birthday OR until Colin weds, whichever happens first, and as far as Colin is concerned, door #2 is simply not an option. He isn't cut out for marriage; women have satisfied a need for him, nothing more. So he must bide his time in Spindle Cove for a few more months when he can return to London in style... and with funds!
Minerva Highwood is the middle daughter to an over-reaching mother who is convinced her eldest and youngest daughters are her best bets for obtaining titled gentlemen as sons-in-law. Minerva is hopeless as she is considered by her mother to be mousy, too intellectual, and always has her head buried in a book (which makes her less graceful when she stumbles over things in the process as well)! As Minerva would rather spend time with rocks than with men, she is fine with being overlooked, but she does want more out of life: to make a mark in the geological world. And she has found just the way to do it: the imprint of a prehistoric, giant lizard that she found in a cave on the ocean. She has taken an imprint and written about her finding to the Royal Geological Society (of which she is a member, though the other members are unaware of her gender); she is certain to win the big prize in the conference taking place in Edinburgh just a few weeks away. But there is no way her mother will allow her to go, and she refuses to leave her older sister Diana (who is often sickly) as their mother is literally throwing her to the worst of the lot: Lord Payne.
Desperate to save her sister AND to get to the geology convening, Minerva shows up in the middle of the night on the doorstep of her least favorite person in Spindle Cove: Lord Payne. After all, the man can't even remember her name as he calls her by every other name starting with an "M" known to man except the one that is actually hers! When Colin answers the door in only his trousers, Minerva is equal parts stunned and (though it is difficult to admit) aroused. But before she can talk herself out of it, she launches into her proposal: she and Colin pretend to elope to Scotland, but instead, he takes her to the meeting, and when she wins first prize, the 500 guinea reward is all his.
Colin is startled to find the woman he has teased rather relentlessly at his door at such a scandalous hour - isn't this woman worried at all for her reputation? And why on earth would she believe he would marry her sister when he has vowed never to wed? But he can't help but have a little fun at her expense and draw things out a little. He is having so much fun, in fact, that he forgets he has a guest... a female one. When Minerva discovers she is not the only woman present, she flees Colin's home horrified and embarrassed. But the next night, he finds her and asks her to dance, then escorts her outside for a chat after she trounces his feet more than a few times. Convinced that he must talk her out of her scheme, he reveals one of his stipulations: she would have to sleep with him every night of their journey. And by sleep, he actually means sleep. Since a horrible carriage accident claimed the lives of his parents, and left him stuck in a tight space all night until they were discovered the following day, he cannot sleep unless he has someone else in the bed with him. In fact, many of his "affairs" are spent simply sleeping (though he is no saint, so there is usually more involved depending on the length of the relationship). But he has very strict rules, one of which is no innocent women. He's not a ruiner, and he doesn't want the drama and/or entrapments that go along with relations with inexperienced ladies. After laying out his terms (which also include no enclosed carriages, for obvious reasons), he is shocked to find that Minerva still requests his company on her journey. Feeling forced into a corner (he cannot allow a lady to travel alone, of course), he agrees to take her, believing she will come to her senses quickly and beg him to return her to Spindle Cove... but he hasn't met this version of Minerva - she will not back down until she makes her lasting mark on the subject she loves most. But what will happen when Colin proves to be much more charming than she imagined? And when Minerva comes out of her shell and shows Colin her true self, will he be able to resist such a tempting package? But the journey turns out to be anything but easy, and when they are faced with setback after setback, will they even make it to the conference in time? And if they don't, will Minerva feel the trip with him was worth it in and of itself? What could a cad like him have to offer her? How could a mousy woman ever tempt such a handsome lord who could have his pick of elegant, beautiful ladies?
What I liked:
--- Fun plot with lots of unexpected turns and fun moments
--- Characters were likeable (even the "manwhore" once his reasons for the behavior were revealed)
--- Steamy goodness!
What I didn't like as much:
--- Minerva was a little too self-critical; I get that her mother drilled into her that she was not as pretty or "marketable" as her sisters, but she knew she was smart and had a lot going for her - when she let herself just be herself, she was witty and charming, and Colin was clearly attracted to her, so it would have been nice to see her own that a little sooner
--- Felt like some unnecessary "will they/won't they" angst towards the last 20-25% of the book - just go for it already!
Overall, a fast-moving, fun plot filled with unexpected turns and steamy goodness!
Plot --- 4.25/5
Main Characters --- 4/5
Supporting Cast --- 4/5
Steam Level* --- 4/5
Violence --- none
Language --- the f word makes appearances early & often
POV --- 3rd
*Note that steam level is not a rating so much as a how hot was it: 0/5 - clean; 1/5 - mild; 2/5 - sensual but nothing descriptive; 3/5 - now we're getting somewhere; 4/5 - yes please! ; 5/5 - they did EVERYTHING in this one, y'all