Martin's (The Secret; Perfect Sin) strongly drawn portrait of two vulnerable people picking their way through the tangles of love is certain to please her fans. Upon the Earl of Greville's death in 1802, his newly legitimized bastard son, Justin Ross, inherits the Greville estates as well as Ariel Summers, a plucky girl who had pledged to become his father's mistress in exchange for schooling on how to be a lady. Though he has little interest in making Ariel consummate the bargain, when she finally graduates and comes to live with him, Justin finds his intentions skewed by his attraction to her bright spirit and his dislike of her friendship with his worst enemy. And despite Ariel's own determination to repay her debt without becoming Justin's mistress, she soon discovers her heart has different ideas. But Justin's mistrust of Ariel's loyalty and her fear that he is incapable of love threaten to pull the pair apart. Martin's villains aren't much more than cardboard, but Ariel and Justin push beyond the stereotypes of the fresh, innocent girl and the emotionally distant rake, fleshing out into nicely rounded characters. The narrative also displays an unusual sensitivity as it explores beyond a couple's hormonal compatibility and tackles the more complex wonder of enduring love. (May)Forecast: Sales in the contemporary romance/suspense field have exploded in recent years, and like many popular romance authors, Martin sagely alternates her offerings between historicals and contemporaries. But Martin's dedicated audience comes from her historicals, and this title will fare quite well.
Back of cover
To escape her life of poverty as a tenant farmer's daughter, Ariel Summers make a bargain with the devil-she would become the Earl of Greville's mistress in exchange for the schooling and refinemnents of a lady. But she couldn't foresee the untimely death, or her own disturbing attraction to his bastard son and heir, Justin Ross.
Justin never meant to demand paymetn from the temting young women his father had so callously planned to ruin. But her innocent allure provoked his ruthless nature and he vowed he would have her in his bed. Seduction was his plan, but Justin never suspected Ariel's innocent passion would awaken emotions he had long believed dead. Now mistrust and betrayal threaten the fragile happiness the two of them have found, and Justin must convince Ariel he isn't the heartless man she beleives.