Thorncliff Manor is the perfect setting for a masquerade ball... where the heart’s secret desires are about to be uncovered in this scintillating Regency romance from Sophie Barnes...
Richard Heartly has exiled himself from society since the war, plotting his revenge for a terrible betrayal. A masked ball at Thorncliff Manor is intended to be a brief diversion. Instead, he encounters a fascinating young woman as entranced by the music as he is. He can’t reveal his identity to Lady Mary. But her siren song keeps drawing him back, and their clandestine meetings could be hazardous to his plan—and to her virtue.
Avoiding an unwanted marriage was easy when Lady Mary was ignored by the ton. Thanks to her dazzling appearance at the masquerade, she’s a wallflower no longer. Eligible suitors abound, yet the only man she wants is the brooding, seductive companion who keeps his face hidden. A man who tempts her to disclose her own shocking secret, one that could divide them forever.
"I must confess that I have read all of Jane Austen's books"
He couldn't help but frown. "Then you have probably acquired high expectations that no mortal man can ever hope to live up to."
His Scandalous Kiss by Sophie Barnes was surprisingly Gothic, which was something I hadn't expected. It has all the right ingredients:
Thornhill Manor, secrets hinting at espionage and conspiracy, a masquerade, a secret romance and most importantly a ghost, in this case figuratively.
Richard and Mary meet at a masquerade ball at Thornhill, Mary only knows Richard as Signor Antonio and Richard only knows Mary as Lady Eleanor. Both hold incredible secrets, in Mary's case hers would ruin her and in Richards case his would send shockwaves through the ton. They begin a secrets affair which includes secrets rendevouz and exploring a hidden Villa in the manor.
This story was somewhat refreshing in that Mary was quite an independent woman compared to the Historical heroines I normally read about, her secret allowed her independence even though she gave the illusion of being a perfect lady. Her aspirations were also quite progressive, she wished to marry for love and even contemplated never marrying which if done so as a choice would have been quite scandalous.
As fond as I am of rakes and rogues, I'm going to be quote honest and say that I was a little disappointed that Richard was a perfect gentleman. It was actually quite sweet, but I will say that I did want a bit more conflict when it came to Richard and Mary's romance. They quickly overcame the initial hurdle and it was smooth sailing despite it being done in secret. Even the second attempt at a hurdle was quickly squashed and I do so love long and drawn out angst which unfortunately was not present in this book.
"You are the light to which I am drawn."
"And you are the darkness that lets me shine," she whispered. His mask was cool against the side of her neck, but his body was all heat, cascading through her and making her want things she'd never wanted before.
"I cannot seem to escape you."
The secondary story which was in fact the secrets about Thornhills past was quite interesting although I do feel like it would have been better had I read the previous books in the series. Ultimately I think my 3 star rating is based on the romance in the story, it lacked intensity and passion. I think it might be my fault though because I rarely read clean historical romance.
ARC kindly provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review