By Loretta Chase.
Hoo boy, this book is fun. Too short, but FUN.
Our hero, Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, had a thoroughly nasty upbringing and it's made very clear that the kid was a super-woobie. His dad married a 17-year-old Italian girl and was shocked, shocked! to find out that a 17-year-old Italian girl loved sex. So as soon as he got an heir off her he refused to sleep with her any more and treated her like shit to the point where she eventually gave up and ran off with another man...leaving her son behind since she couldn't take him anyway. Young Sebastian was utterly abandoned, since his dad made it clear he hated the kid. He also had a big nose and dark skin and everyone made it clear to him that they thought him fugly. Once kids started abusing him at school, Sebastian learned to fight back, and eventually learned that the way to survive is to be the biggest, baddest ASSHOLE in the vicinity of everyone. His well-earned nickname is "Beezelbub." And yet, you feel for the dude, because given his total abandonment and abuse, he did the best he could to survive.
Jessica Trent is a spinster by choice. The lovely granddaughter of a notorious femme fatale, she inherited the looks...but just hasn't liked any suitors. She's a shrewd lady after having pretty much raised a ton of younger boy relatives. She comes to Paris to extract her thoroughly stupid brother Bertie from the clutches of his new pal, the Marquess of Dain. She meets Sebastian in a shop, where he's totally captivated despite himself when she buys a pornographic watch for her grandmother's birthday present--and also gets a gorgeous icon off the owner for ridiculously cheap. Jessica's unperturbed by Sebastian's devilishness because god knows, she will fight and shoot back. Sebastian is like a moth to flame when she's around, which amuses the hell out of Parisian society. He ruins her in public, she shoots him in public, he proposes marriage...yup, it's a crazy-ass relationship, but SUPER HOT. Like I've said before, I'm usually bored with reading sex scenes by now, but not with this one. Hoo boy, they're hot. And the characters are super fun to read as they battle and come together, adorably. Jess does a good job of figuring out Sebastian's abandonment issues and dealing with them in the context of a romantic relationship too.
The latter half of the book (since we're kind of at "happy ending" anyway for them early) deals with Sebastian's 8-year-old bastard son by a whore, who Jessica wants to rescue from the clutches of his dimwit mother. The son is the spitting image of Dad, and Jessica sensibly wants to head off a repeat of the same problems. Sebastian is eventually talked into dealing with the situation and he learns to handle it well. I was actually sad the book ended around the end of that resolution, because seeing the home life of these folks together would be hilarious. I kind of hope someday the kid gets his own sequel.
Four stars. Fun, fun stuff.