SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT – Valerie Bowman
St. Martin's Paperbacks
When Lily was seventeen and Devon in his mid twenties, they fell deeply in love and wanted to marry. Her parents were very much against it. Even though Devon was the heir of a marquis, his father's gambling had beggared the estate. They decided to elope. As fate—or something else—would have it, they each thought the other backed out. With no other option, Lily married her father's choice, the much older Earl of Merrill. The unhappy marriage lasted all of a month, and though Merrill was rich, his heir is stingy in the extreme.
It's now five years later and Lily is nearly penniless, though society—and fortune hunters—believe Merrill left her very comfortable. She scrapes her resources to the bone to give her young sister a debut season in hopes that Annie can make a good marriage.
What of Devon? He's now Marquis of Colton. He's done well to refill the family coffers, but perpetuates the idea that he's as bad a gambler as his father and heavily in debt. Why? He has plans for revenge upon the scoundrel who fleeced his father. But first he has another wrong to set right. His fiancée has cried off on the engagement after being frightened by a recently published pamphlet warning young maidens on the hazards of marriage. It's entitled Secrets of a Wedding Night , and gossip attributes the pamphlet to Lily, Countess of Merrill. Devon calls upon Lily to write a retraction. He doesn't believe her when she refuses to admit authorship of the tract. Devon then threatens to seduce Lily to prove her ideas of a wedding night are all wrong.
The main theme of devastating betrayal coupled with desires never forgotten that runs through SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT results from a major misunderstanding. While that is difficult to handle, with engaging dialogue and strong characters, Ms. Bowman adds enough humor, romance, and suspense to make it work, especially as Devon's plans unfold. Devon's friend, Jordan, Earl of Ashbourne adds much; perhaps he'll have his own book? Then there is Annie, Lily's sister, a delightful young lady who enlivens several chapters. What is her fate?
I strongly recommend this excellent debut novel and hope for sequels.