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Annabelle Flynn is the sister of London's two biggest libertines, and her reaction has been to become the picture of purity. But the sensual nature of her family has not been lost on her and she is troubled by urges she dare not follow. She ignores the demands of her body and instead throws herself into two different activities. One is pursuing a proper marriage in Society and the other is trying to save her broken brother by following him into the shocking Donville Masquerade, part of a hell run by the mysterious Marcus Rivers.
By day, Annabelle pursues ladylike endeavors and seeks a staid husband to combat the wild reputations of her brothers. By night, she inserts herself into Marcus's business ... and eventually she finds herself seduced into his bed.
But can a not-quite-proper lady and an entirely unsuitable cad find anything in common outside of the bedroom? And will Annabelle be willing to trade passion for cold, calculated 'perfection'?
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When I first met Annabelle in Rafe's book, I had the impression that she was her own person -- one who thought and made decisions for herself. She felt formidable and I enjoyed thinking about this unconventional woman as a member of such a notorious family.
"Mr. Rivers, you have no idea of the depth of my ability to be a Flynn in every way that works in my advantage."
- loc 865
But Annabelle in The Scoundrel's Lover seemed a bit less confident, and more uncertain of herself. Perhaps it's the change in her social situation, perhaps it's a natural part of the process of growing older -- but I could see Annabelle struggle to fit into society, and, at the same time, continue to be her truest self. She dreams of respectability and acceptance, and believes she can fulfill that dream by marrying into society, but it is difficult for her. At first, I wondered about this inconsistency in her character, but I realised it's part of her story -- she's a fish out of water, and she's struggling to breathe in her new environment. Of their family, she and Crispin are having a harder time adjusting, and I admire her for her determination and focus, and really felt for her when society turned a cold shoulder to her.
Crispin's situation is the trouble that leads Annabelle into Marcus Rivers's gaming hell. Annabelle thought she would be the one to pull Crispin out of the darkness, but she never counted on being lured by it. This is where the real tug-of-war begins, because Annabelle finds the hells irresistible -- and Marcus even more so. While she wants a respectable marriage, her heart (and body) desire otherwise.
Be herself. Oh no. That was the very last thing she would ever be. The last thing she would show anyone. Herself was a very dangerous creature indeed. One best kept hidden.
- loc 76
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"I don't want to want these things," she whispered, a desperate confession she seemed to make to herself more than to him. "I don't want to feel these things. I'm trying to be better, I'm trying to be proper and ye I can't stop ... wanting this."
- loc 1350
Marcus is an amazing character and a gentleman: he recognises the "darkness" in Annabelle, but never encourages it. In fact, he tries his best to keep Annabelle away from the kind of life he leads. It is Annabelle that insists on returning. He allows himself to be Annabelle's "experiment" -- allowing her to explore as much of her body's desires without breaching her innocence. It must have been agonising for Marcus to surrender himself to a woman who has already imposed a limit on their relationship, who has already told him that they would never have a future together.
"There should be no desperation here."
She caught her breath, watching how their fingers intertwined. His hand was bigger than hers by far and yet it looked so right closing around her flesh. As if they fit in ways she didn't want to comprehend.
She shook her head. "There will always be desperation, Marcus, in something so temporary."
- loc 2561
While I did not like the arrangement or the situation that our hero and heroine were in, I understood the need for it. Annabelle was standing on the threshold of her new life, and she needed to make difficult choices: Respectability or authenticity? Society's acceptance or happiness? A marriage of convenience or a marriage of love? The presence of Lord Claybrook as Annabelle's suitor further expands on the theme that Jess Michael's introduced in the previous book: be careful what you wish for.
Marcus already knew who he was and where his place was in society. I thought Jess Michaels was very clear with the dichotomies present in Annabelle's life and did a very good job exploring the torment she experienced as she tried to decide. While I enjoyed Rafe's story, Annabelle's story was very effective in showing the gap that now exists within the family (especially between Rafe and Crispin) -- and Annabelle's role in bridging it.
The author drops some very intriguing hints about Crispin, and I look forward to reading about him soon. According to Jess's website, she's currently working on edits on Crispin's story, The Widow Wager.
To find out more about Jess Michaels and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author via Netgalley. Thank you, Jess Michaels, for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.