**I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion**
Title: TWICE TEMPTED
Author: Eileen Dreyer
Availability: 25 November; E-book & Mass Market; Grand Central Publishing (Forever)
Where to Buy:
Series Info: Part of the Drake’s Rakes series (#5); My review of the prequel novella IT BEGINS WITH A KISS (Alex and Fiona’s first adventure) is available here
Fiona Ferguson’s troubles began with a kiss . . .
It feels like a lifetime ago that Alex Knight saved Fiona from certain doom . . . and stole a soul-shattering kiss for good measure. Wanting nothing more than to keep her safe, he left her in the care of her grandfather, the Marquess of Dourne.
But Fiona was hardly safe. As soon as he could, the marquess cast her and her sister out on the streets with only her wits to keep them alive.
Alex has never forgotten that long-ago kiss. Now the dashing spy is desperate to make up for failing his duty once before. This time he will protect Fiona once and for all, from a deadly foe bent on taking revenge on the Ferguson line-and anyone who stands in the way . . .
I’m happy to report that the promising romance between Alex Knight, Lord Whitmore, and Fiona Ferguson that I so enjoyed in their prequel novella, It Begins With a Kiss, paid off beautifully. Espionage, intrigue, astronomy and code-breaking lend depth to a passionate tale that proves being loved and being strong are not mutually exclusive.
From the first, both Alex Knight and readers alike, are captivated by the fearsome Fiona Ferguson. Her tragic, impoverished childhood belies her status a Lady, the granddaughter of a powerful Marquess and sister to his heir. Alex Knight is a close friend (and fellow member of the Drake’s Rakes spy ring) of Fiona’s brother, Colonel Ian Ferguson and through this relationship, Alex befriends Fiona and names himself protector of her and her sister Mairead. Ian Ferguson’s story is told in the wonderful novel Once a Rake – highly recommended!). Scandal surrounding Ian leads to his grandfather to cast the girls from his home, leaving them vulnerable and alone.
Alex Knight has led his life living up to his nickname “White Knight,” always charging to the rescue, collecting strays and trying to save those in need. He tried with his first wife, a vulnerable woman whose weakness and insecurity led to her commit adultery, dabble in treasonous acts and eventually take her own life. Alex has suffered from his perceived failure to save his wife, yet his character does not wallow in his grief. Throughout this novel, Alex must make some difficult decisions to protect his honor, his country, as well as both Fiona and his family (including his sick step-father) – and these goals prove to be mutually exclusive. His growth comes with how he deals with these conflicts.
Alex is haunted by his first encounter with Fiona – and their powerful kiss – even four years later. Their physical attraction and emotional connection were not dampened by the time they were separated. Alex’s sense of duty (and guilt over his role in Ian’s troubles) sent him to look for Fiona but it was her strength and guarded vulnerability that make him fall in love.
Fiona is used to fending for herself and doing everything in her power to protect her twin sister Mairead. Mairead is as beautiful as she is intelligent, which is to say extremely. Unfortunately that intelligence is accompanied by emotional trauma and complications which make Mairead almost completely reliant on Fiona. Fiona becomes more parent than sister and loses herself in the process. She longs for the chance to lean on Alex for support yet is too proud and scared of losing him that she won’t allow herself to share her burdens.
How could she explain that she simply couldn’t bear another disappointment? That the only thing worse than loss was loss on the heels of hope?
Eventually the assassin who is after their brother Ian, coupled with the revelation that the girls’ genius for code breaking was being exploited by the enemy, brings trouble to the Ferguson twins’ door. Fiona trusts Alex and his close friend Chuffy, Lord Wilde, to protect her and Mairead and remove them to safety. Fiona doesn’t balk at Alex’s actions but rather intelligently and logically recognizes that she needs his help and that Alex and Chuffy are in the best position to protect her and Mairead.
A highlight of TWICE TEMPTED for me is the mature and thoughtful relationship between Fiona and Alex. They have instant chemistry and Ms. Dreyer does a wonderful job of fleshing out their compatibility. They have a very open relationship, where they treat one another as equals. Alex is not put off by Fiona’s past or her ‘bluestocking’ mathematical genius nor is she so determined to be independent that she doesn’t value his assistance. Alex recognizes that he cannot save Fiona, indeed she doesn’t need him to, but rather he wants to lighten her load.
[S]he had not needed him to complete her. He hoped, however, she would let him shelter her.
The scene where Fiona finally lets go of all the tears and pain she has been holding at bay is powerful and very touching. Alex and Fiona still manage moments of levity and passion that balance their dark pasts and present troubles. Theirs is a happily-ever-after you can believe in.
Overall, TWICE TEMPTED is a very balanced romance with a likable hero and heroine who respect one another and demonstrate the power of love and support. Secondary characters along with a touching secondary romance make this an enjoyable read. The version I read could have used tighter editing to eliminate inconsistencies, but hopefully those were ironed out in the final product.
Complete the entry form powered by Rafflecopter for a chance to win:
- (10) winners will get a print copy of TWICE TEMPTED by Eileen Dreyer
- (5) winners will receive the ENTIRE Drake’s Rakes series, including TWICE TEMPTED
Excerpt from TWICE TEMPTED:
He arched an eyebrow. “Lord Whitmore again? Please, Fiona. Don’t do that to me. When I hear Lord Whitmore, I think of my uncle, who had six fingers and thought bathing was a trick of the devil.”
She giggled. “I can understand your wanting to maintain the distinction.”
“Every time you call me Lord Whitmore, I will call you Eloise.”
She glared at him, the curtains clutched to her chest like bedclothes, as if she were a maiden in threat of seduction. “You wouldn’t.”
He shrugged. “It is your name. Lady Eloise Fiona Ferguson Hawes.”
“No one knows,” she hissed.
He leaned in very close. “I do.”
She reared back and almost tipping the ladder again. “That is patently unfair.”
He shrugged and reached up for the curtains. “All is fair in love and safety.”
She refused to budge. “I do not believe that is precisely the quote.”
Grinning, he put his foot on the second rung, just beneath her. “Close enough.”
And then he made the mistake of looking into her eyes. Her blue, blue eyes that were suddenly black with arousal. He heard the sharp intake of her breath and saw the erratic pulse beating at the base of her long white throat.
His own body reacted just as it had every time he’d gotten close to her. He focused in on her, his grip on her tightening. Still she didn’t move, caught in the circle of his free arm, her hip pressed against his chest, her mouth just above his. All he had to do was climb another rung, and he could satisfy a four-year-old craving.
His heart was galloping suddenly, and he could feel a bead of sweat roll down his back. He could see a glow on her forehead, her upper lip. Her eyes widened, as if she could read his thoughts, and he could scent something new. Arousal. Need. Hunger. His own body was shaking with it. He swore his cock had taken on a life of its own, and his brain simply shut down.
He leaned a bit closer, his foot still on the step beneath her and paused, giving her a chance to escape, to clout him in the head if necessary. She didn’t. She watched him the way prey might a raptor, unsure and wary. He didn’t blame her. He wasn’t certain how much control he had over himself. It had been so long since he’d had a woman. So much longer since he’d really liked the one he had.
Slowly, so he didn’t startle her into tipping the ladder, he rose up and set his other foot on the rung. She was frozen in place, one hand fisted around the blood-deep velvet, the other clenched against the ladder, as if she was still uncertain whether to use it.
She didn’t. She inhaled, her mouth opening just a bit, as if there wasn’t enough air. As if she were struggling to stay afloat.
Sink, Alex wanted to say as he lifted himself face-to-face with her, mouth-to-mouth. Sink into me.
“I knew it!” a voice screeched behind him, shattering the moment. “What did I tell you about lettin’ them jackanapes in here?”
Fiona reared back, as if he’d attacked her, again throwing the ladder off balance. Alex instinctively pulled back to stabilize them. He pulled back too far and the ladder tipped.
There was a lot of yelling and a couple of muffled thuds as Alex landed on his back, cushioning Fiona’s fall. He wasn’t so lucky.
“Are you all right?” Fiona asked immediately, leaning over him.
“Serves him right,” the housekeeper snapped from the doorway.
He had hit his head so hard he was seeing stars. But he was smelling cinnamon and Fiona, so he really couldn’t complain
“That is enough, Mrs. Quick,” he heard. “Alex? Your eyes are open. Can you hear me?”
Rather than admit that he was too distracted by the plump pressure of her breast against his chest to answer, he simply closed his eyes and groaned. The act would have been unworthy of him if his head weren’t pounding and his arse aching from hard contact with the floor
“Mrs. Quick,” she was saying, her hand on his cheek. “See if Mr. Clemson is outside. Send him for the doctor.”
He knew his injuries didn’t merit such concern. “No doctor.” He blinked a couple of times until the multiple Fionas resolved into one. “I’ll live. My head is a bit bruised is all.”
In retaliation, she took away both her hand and breast, which almost set Alex to groaning again. She actually smacked him on the arm. “Then don’t frighten me like that….again.”
“Don’t know why you let him in here at all,” came the grumble from the doorway.
Untangling them both from the curtains, Fiona sat up. “Thank you, Mrs. Quick. I think we’re all right now.”
“Ya think that, do ya?”
Fiona gave her the kind of glare that betrayed her aristocratic heritage. The housekeeper, still grumbling, clasped her hands in a parody of good servile behavior and stalked off down the hall.
Fiona looked back down to where Alex lay, and he could see the cost of the last tumble on her face. He should have been outraged. He was lying in a nest of curtains with a fresh headache and the humiliation of his fall, and she was…laughing.
She tried so hard not to. She held her hand to her mouth. She shook her head. He could see her shoulders heave. He would have chastised her, except the minute he opened his mouth, he burst out laughing, too.
“You are not very beneficial to my amour propre,” he wheezed up at her.
She couldn’t stop laughing, full-throated, full-bellied, as if too much suppressed laughter had simply spilled over. “I…I….didn’t…”
“Mean it,” he managed, making it up as far as sitting beside her. “Yes, I know.”
She frantically shook her head. “Think anything could be so…funny!” She was gasping, bent over her hands at her waist. “The look on your face!”
He had meant to get up, to reassert his mastery of the situation. He refused to sacrifice this perfect moment with her on the floor. Wrapping an arm around her shoulder, he wiped at the tears that coursed down her cheeks.
“It’s not that funny,” he groused.
She started laughing again. “Oh, yes it is. You can have no idea of how long it’s been since I had the chance to laugh. Since I last saw your sister, I think.”
He had to grin. “Well, yes. Pip would set anybody to laughing. She’s a ridiculous little thing.”
For that he got a resounding smack on his chest. “Do not dare speak ill of my best friend.” She hiccuped, her eyes widening a bit. “My only friend, actually. Except for Sarah and Lizzie. And now that Sarah is married to my brother, I have no idea at all how we will meet again.”
There was the faintest plaintive note in her voice that made Alex want to curl her completely into his arms and shield her from hurt. Dear God, how lonely she must have been. “I promise,” he said instead. “I fully respect my sister’s loyalty. It’s her good sense I frequently question.”
Her breathing was evening out. She nodded. “Pip does have a knack for acting before thinking.”
“She’s like a whirlwind.”
“She needs to finally capture her Beau,” Fiona said with a definite nod. “That would settle her down.”
Alex snorted. “Poor Beau. He’d never have another moment’s peace.”
And for a long moment, they just sat there in a pool of sunlight and velvet, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. It felt so good. So whole.
It couldn’t last. If he didn’t move, he’d damn well take her here on the floor. He opened his mouth to tell her, and then made the mistake of meeting her gaze again.
Her lips were still parted, but she wasn’t laughing anymore. He could see the pulse jumping at her throat, and her hands were clenched again, as if she were trying hard to keep them to herself.
He didn’t know why. Lifting his own hand, he cupped her cheek. Again he gave her the chance to pull away. Again she didn’t. His own heart started to skip around. He was rock hard. There was no longer a question. He had to kiss her.
About Author Eileen Dreyer:
New York Times best-selling author Eileen Dreyer has won five RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, which secures her fourth place in the Romance Writers of America prestigious Hall of Fame. Eileen is an addicted traveler, having sung in some of the best Irish pubs in the world. Eileen also writes as Kathleen Korbel and has over three million books in print worldwide. Born and raised in Missouri, she lives in St. Louis County with her husband Rick and her two children.
Connect with Eileen’s Social Media: