Joining me today is Jill from Romance Rookie. She, along with Kristie's review, is the reason why I got Ravishing in Red, so it's only fair she buddy-reviews it with me, right? :)
Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter
published by Jove Books in January 2010
Armed with her cousin’s pistol, Audrianna travels to a coaching inn, to meet with a man who may have information that will clear her dead father’s name. She does not realize that the handsome man of commanding sensuality who shows up is not the person she expected, but instead Lord Sebastian Summerhays, one of her father’s persecutors, lured to the inn by the same advertisement that brought her there.
When the pistol accidentally fires, the situation becomes mortifyingly public, and thoroughly misunderstood. Audrianna is prepared to live with the scandal. Lord Sebastian has other ideas...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Rarest Blooms, Book #1
The Story: During the war, bad gunpowder was provided to the English troops leading to their deaths. Upon investigation, Audrianna's father was accused of falsifying quality reports and in the end, the man committed suicide. Audrianna always believed in her father's innocence and decides to do some investigation of her own when she reads an ad to Audrianna's father attention in the newspaper setting up a meeting at a coaching inn.
Lord Sebastian Summerhays' brother, the Marques of Wittonbury, was injured during the war due to the bad gunpowder and his legs are now unusable. As a result, Lord Sebastian had to step into his brother's shoes. Of course, he's taken a huge interest into the gunpowder case and doesn't believe Audrianna's father was the mastermind... Upon reading the same ad as Audrianna, Lord Sebastian decides to go to the meeting.
Audrianna and Lord Sebastian are thus caught in a compromising situation and have to marry...
Nath: So Jill, what did you think? I thought the story was interesting. The characters really made the book in my opinion. They were different, they stood out from typical historicals - her being a normal woman and him, not having a title, being the second son. I enjoyed the H/H dynamics, but even more, the brothers relationship.
Jill: I too really enjoyed the characters. I thought Audrianna was a little naive about things. The fact that she didn't quite realize how her going about unchaperoned would affect her reputation was the most notable. I really liked Sebastian. He was very noble and always chose to do the right thing. He could have played the martyr especially when it came to his brother, but he didn't.
Nath: I don't know how to put it in words, but I guess yes, Audrianna was naive, but not in the sense that she was ignorant. This is a clear case of theory vs. practice. Yes, she knows that going somewhere unchaperoned is bad and a risk to her reputation, but I don't think she realized how much till she did it. That's where the naiveté comes into play in my opinion. As in, she didn't think the impacts would be so serious.
Jill: That is pretty much how I felt about it.
I also really enjoyed the relationship they both had with the crippled brother. I liked that Audrianna's friendship sparked jealousy in Sebastian and made him reevaluate his feelings for Audrianna.
Nath: It was sweet to see Audrianna and Morgan together. It really felt like a blossoming sibling relationship. However, I liked Sebastian and Morgan's relationship even more and how symbiotic it was - is this the right word? It was very honorable of Sebastian to step in and he definitively cared for Morgan. However, Sebastian is right, it might have been better if Morgan died in which case, he'd be the Marquess... but now, they have to share everything... and that's why it frustrated him so much to see Audrianna get along so well with Morgan. She is supposed to be his alone, but it seems he has to share her affection too. Even so, it's clear Sebastian loves his brother.
Jill: Symbiotic - yes, great word.
The mystery part was okay. It was done well, but I wasn't all that invested in it. I did like the fact that eventually both characters decided that their love for one another was more important than solving the mystery. That is what really won me over.
Nath: I agree with you - the mystery was just okay. I wasn't that into it and that's probably due to the fact that Audrianna was so sure of her father's innocence. It's normal, but also typical. But I was surprised at the end and that was good :) Also, I thought Morgan's part made the whole mystery better. In a way, I was glad that the mystery wasn't about a big bad villain, but more about flawed humans. Although not gripping, I really loved the resolution. Not just because both Audrianna and Sebastian decided to let go because their love is more important, but for the whole friendship and loyalty.
Another so-so element was the "Rarest Blooms." I think Ms Hunter should have showcased them a bit more. We do see the ladies interacting with each other, but I'm missing the deeper bond between them.
Jill: I liked that the rarest blooms didn't overtake the main romance. There was a little sequel bating, but it was all very mild and for that I am thankful. As far as girlfriend bonds, I can see where you think more could have been done.
Nath: True, the sequel baiting was kept to a minimum and so was the "screen time" of the Rarest Blooms. As a result, I simply didn't connect with the other women... In truth, I'm actually more interested in Sebastian's friends than the ladies and not really anticipating the next book, Provocative in Pearls.
Jill: Now this is where I differ and I am not sure if it's because I read the excerpt for Provocative in Pearls in the back of the book, but I am completely hooked on the next book. I thought that there was a lot of foreshadowing based on the fact one of the girls wouldn't ever show her face to anyone and that she didn't come to Adrianna’s wedding.
Nath: I did read the excerpt and I don't know, I just don't like Lizzie so far :( It's true the author did a lot of foreshadowing in this book with Lizzie, which is great... but yeah, not totally convinced to get her book.
Also, do you think it's be possible to have a Castleford/Celia pairing, Daphne/Morgan? :) Those, I would like a lot :D
Jill: Well, I haven't really formed an opinion about Lizzie yet because I don't really "know" her. But I am definitely intrigued about her backstory. What made her run away?
I also think that the other books will be with Castleford/Celia and Daphne/Morgan, at least I really hope so. I want Morgan to get his book so bad, LOL!
Nath: I'm curious about Castleford actually :) But yes, I'm hoping Morgan will get his book :)
Back to Ravishing in Red. One thing that I liked in this book was seeing Audrianna adapt to the ton. I'd actually have liked Ms Hunter to develop this part a bit more, especially given Audrianna situation: her marriage was a bit scandalous due to the circumstances. She is not from the ton and also her husband's position. Oh, and I love that despite everything, Audrianna did find the strength to stand up to her mother-in-law :D
Jill: I do agree with you on this one. Most of the interaction was done in private scenes. There really weren't any actions with big balls or dinner parties with the ton and that definitely could have added a different view on the book. Yes, I love how Audrianna handles her mother-in-law.
One thing that surprised me were the number of love scenes in Ravishing in Red, after all this is not erotic, but mainstream. They weren't very graphic, but they were frequent and sensual. I liked that they felt integral to the story instead of just filler. I think that is why I like marriage of convenience stories because the H/H are forced into intimacy with each other and I love seeing that bond develop through sex.
Nath: LOL, I love the moment Audrianna said she wouldn't take any lovers :P
Like you, I enjoy the marriage of convenience plot. I just like to see how two people forced into proximity develop feelings for each other LOL.
So, Ravishing in Red is a B for me :D I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised with it. I liked the characters a lot, but the mystery wasn't that gripping... and for some reasons, I find Ms Hunter's writing a bit cold, too clinical for me. What about you?
Jill: I gave this a B+. I happen to really like Hunter's writing. I don't find it cold at all. I could see where you might find the characters more reserved than other authors, but she doesn't feel cold to me.