Read an excerpt: here
Alice had been Cassandra's governess turned companion for a very long time now. At the age of 42, employment for the 'old' woman who was more of a mother than Cassandra has ever known or could ever part with was an unrealistic option. Mary was the unmarried cook, housekeeper, and maid for Cassandra, and Mary's 4 year old daughter, Belinda, was a bright light in a dark place. No one would hire Mary as long as she insisted on keeping her daughter with her. And finally, Roger, who so valiantly defended Cassandra (the details of which will be revealed towards the end of the book) and was carried away badly maimed and so close to the doorstep of death, would probably never find another owner to love and cherish him as Cassandra did.
They all loved her, and she loved them, and Cassandra knew she was the only one who could save them. 9 years in an abusive marriage nearly tore Cassandra apart, and in reality, the mask of indifferent cynicism she wore could directly be attributed to those years of abuse.
When her husband is found dead in their library with no witness nor evidence to conclusively incriminate anyone, let alone her, Cassandra will still face unyielding public censure as she tried to embrace her independence. Fanciful retellings of rumors with no substantial bases will brand Cassandra an Axe-murder, and when her husband's heir and eldest son from his first marriage threatens to have charges brought up against Cassandra if she tries to collect on her much needed settlement, destitution is not far off into the distance.
Determined to provide for herself and those whom depend on her, Cassandra is convinced that she must become some wealthy aristocrat's mistress. She crashes Lady Sheringford's ball to scout for potential protectors, and is surprised to find that the hostess herself and her family are good-natured people who forgo treating her with disdain and try to make her feel welcome (even if it's just to do damage control). The brother of her hostess, Stephen Huxtable, the Earl of Merton, caught her eye the previous day while she walked in the park, now he was at the ball and Cassandra made her choice to pursue this 'angel' of a man.
Stephen is initially leery of Cassandra's forthright declaration of trying to seduce him. They dance, enjoy supper, and she volunteers his services to escort her home. It is very clear that she wants to have sex with him, but the morning after they share some delicious intimacies, she's ready to talk business and Stephen is not sure what he wants to do. Some unknown forces make him relent to Cassandra's wishes and he agrees to the arrangement.
Cassandra's unceremonious offering of herself and speaking so blatantly about the use of her body , which Stephen's "paying well enough for", induces him to cut the arrangement short (just after the second night) and re-strategize a way to help Cassandra get back into society.
The path to healing proves to be a dubious one, but our fair angel Stephen can't help but try and help Cassandra. He brings JOY into her life with their few outings and soon the attraction takes a deeper route and solidifies a mutual love. Truths are revealed, a sweet but public kiss results in a hurried proclamation of engagement, Cassandra fights her feelings for Stephen (and for her freedom), but she'll soon find out that love is the ultimate liberation.
-Rating- 4 1/2 Smooches -Rating-
My Favorite Part of the Book: Is when Cassandra and Stephen get caught up in the moment and share a kiss on a terrace during a ball, in visible sight. Quick thinking has Stephen blurting out that Cassandra accepted his proposal of marriage so he lost his head for a second with joy and that's why he kissed her. Cassandra, once out of the public eye, stays steadfast in her desire to never marry again, but she must keep up pretenses for the time being to avoid more scandal. In all of the romances I have read where a kiss is witness and marriage must follow after, I've never seen it done like this before and I thought it was really genius.This book was lovely! There were deep emotions and heavy themes which threaten to weigh the plot down in darkness, but Balogh cleverly inserted an ever-present current of hope and strength which succeeds in endearing this book to the reader. I enjoy a good pregnancy in a story, even if most readers feel most authors just throw it in just to throw it in. Cassandra's revelation towards the end of the book was a twist I literally didn't see coming. She had suffered multiple miscarriages in the past at the hands of her abusive husband, and the fear and joy felt with this scenario just tugged at my heart strings. In this novel, the heroine was 28 and the hero was 25, and I thought that would put a damper on the book somewhat for me. But it was well done and 'Seducing An Angel' is an excellent read!
*Also check out the first novel in The Huxtable Series and where we first encounter a 17 year old Stephen, 'First Comes Marriage', Vanessa and Elliot's story!
*Also by Mary Balogh, a consummate classic and one of my favorite novels, 'Slightly Married'