TAKEN BY DESIRE Lavinia Kent
Avon Books
ISBN:  978-0-06-198604-8
December 2010
Historical Romance

London, England Early 1800's

A simple desire to post a letter in the middle of the night is what changes Anna Steele's life forever.  While staying at Lady Smythe-Burke's house party, as she's sneaking down the hall to where the letter is to be placed, she sees a man coming out of her half-sister Maddie's bedroom; but not just any man, Alexander Struthers.  And then she hears Lord Milson, Maddie's husband, walking down the hall.  How to avoid disaster?  Alexander was the best friend of Anna's late fiancé, Christian, but ever since he died they've avoided each other.  When Lord Milson walks up, Anne unthinkingly grabs Alexander and kisses him.  A fire quickly burns between them, but her decision has ruined her reputation as Lord Milson informs them he plans to tell Lady Smythe-Burke what happened, and you know how gossip spreads.  Initially, Alexander offers to marry Anna, but Lady Smythe-Burke and she decide that she can weather any gossip, until Lady Smythe-Burke tells Anna her American cousins are in England , bent on trouble.  Because Anna is an heiress and received all her uncle's fortune, her male American cousins seem bent on taking her to court and saying that as a single woman who refuses marriage, she is clearly insane and has been throwing her money away and should probably be put into an asylum until she comes to her senses.  So Anna quickly changes her mind and tells Alexander they must get married.

Alexander is confused with Anna refusing his offer of marriage and the next day changing her mind.  Could it be because of the wealth he earned in India , although she supposedly is rumored to be an heiress?  The quick wedding and perfunctory wedding night have Alexander quickly deciding he has probably made a big mistake.  When they return to London , Anna goes to her house to live, and Alexander returns to his.  As Alexander gets to know Anna better he feels there is something she is not telling him; in fact he can tell by her face when she is lying to him.  He believes there is love and affection in Anna, but he is getting mixed signals from her, until he meets her American cousins at her house one morning and knows there is more to them than she is telling him.

Anna knows as soon as she married Alexander her money became his, and she is afraid of what his power over it could do.  Will he spend the money senselessly and leave her penniless one day?  Will he take it and send her to an asylum himself to get his hands on it?  Most of all, can she trust him when he says he is not interested in her money?  The attraction between them blows hot in the bedroom, but the secrets between them place an even greater distance between them.

Lavinia Kent has written about a modern woman in an historical setting.  With over a half million pounds as an inheritance, Anna has been making her own business decisions about investing her money, spending her money, and living the type of life she wants, mostly disregarding the stares of society.  But the threat of an insane asylum has her scared, and the sense of helplessness she feels at defending herself against those who could declare her spending and investing of her inheritance unreasonable bodes ill in that society.  Alexander had been attracted to Anna when she was engaged to his friend, and the quick wedding has him understandably nervous about Anna and her intentions, but he is willing to give it a chance.  The hidden history of his life in India also gives Anna pause until she can get him to explain what happened.

Secondary characters are Anna's father, who never really cared for anything but her money; her half sister Maddie, who never completely explains what Alexander was doing in her room that fateful night; and Anna's two cousins, Nathanial and Ernest, who are bound and determined no sane woman would manage her accounts as she does, making her surely light in the mind.

TAKEN BY DESIRE takes a woman used to making her own decisions and partners her with a man willing to love, but scared of what his wife is hiding from him.  With several other plots going on, everyone gets in the act of trying to keep Anna and Alexander apart. Can they survive all the odds and make a real marriage of their relationship?  You will thoroughly enjoy TAKEN BY DESIRE.

Carolyn Crisher