Once She Was Tempted
Author: Anne Barton
Publisher: Grand Central/Forever
Date of Publication: October 29, 2013
. . . or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose the instant he meets her-though she’s wearing considerably more clothing. In person, the demure debutante is even more irresistible . . .
In desperate need of money for her sick mother, Daphne Honeycote had posed for two scandalous portraits. Now she must hide her secret to save the Honeycote family name. Ben’s possession of one painting makes him an insufferable thorn in her side-and yet he may be her best chance at finding the canvas’s companion. As she becomes drawn to the dark-tempered earl, can Daphne risk laying bare the secrets of her heart?
First – I’m totally digging the dress that’s on the cover. It’s gorgeous and perfectly suits the book since the entire thing is about a portrait and the cover bears some resemblance to the portrait (well, at least the colors) described in the book.
Apparently this is the second book in the series, since I’m guessing the first book tells the tale of Daphne’s sister meeting and falling for the duke. Daphne has had her circumstances vastly improved thanks to that marriage and is trying to be a model of propriety and everything a proper young miss should be. Unfortunately, due to desperation, she’d done something a proper young lady never should: posed for a couple of very (for the period) scandalous portraits for a friend of hers who’s just starting out in the world.
Ben has come into possession of one of the two portraits and because of it initially believes Daphne is a rather base woman who’s trying to ensnare a wealthy and titled husband. He’s looking out for his best friend’s younger brother (his best friend was killed during the war) who’s inherited the title, which has brought him out of his normal seclusion, which he’s imposed upon himself because of a rather nasty war-wound to his leg. He meets Daphne, recognizes her from the portrait and promptly tries to steer her away from his young protege.
Of course this suspicion of her gradually fades and he agrees to help her locate the second portrait in exchange for her avoiding his protege. This leads to a house party and the second portrait (which is owned by a recluse with a very nasty son). The two of course fall in love and I have to say the revelation of the portrait upon society was marvelously handled. I love Ben so much for what he did for Daphne.
Absolutely adored this book, and Ben is a large part of the reason for that adoration. He’s strong and given the ongoing fascination of society for “perfect” looks, it’s not surprising he’s secluded himself. He’s given up on getting any help, even rebuffing Daphne’s initial offer to help him maybe ease some of his agony. But he at one point doesn’t have a polite way of saying no, and kudos to Daphne for not letting him drive her away with his attitude about a non-physician solution/suggestion.
Daphne is a strong woman, as proved by the lengths she went to back when she was dirt poor and looking for a solution to help provide money (the artist split his commission with her in exchange for her posing) for her family. I though she was a bit wispy and fluff-brained at times, given how martyrish she was at a couple of points when it looked like the scandalous portrait might be revealed (hoping she might one day get to see her niece/nephew, removing entirely from town/her family so she doesn’t “taint” them, etc.). But that balanced out and she got a wonderful man in the end.
I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to read this book and look forward to reading others by Ms. Barton.
Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.