Carnal Deceptions - Scottie Barrett My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

I actually wanted to read this book before The Viscount's Addiction because of the beautiful cover. But, an opium addict hero proved more alluring. I wasn’t happy with that book and sadly, not with this one as well. This book was uneven too, but what grated my nerves were both H/h and the stupid plot to bring the villain to justice. I’ll try to point them out as I go.

Tess’s father committed suicide because of a huge debt. Although he was a viscount, he was more of a viscount farmer (if there was anything like that), who loved to farm. He wanted to see Tess settled well so, probably, got himself trapped into the schemes of a man named Sloan and found himself destitute. Then he took the coward’s way out, leaving Tess all alone in the world. His man of business, Beadle, had an eye on beautiful, red haired Tess but she never returned the creepy man’s attentions. The story starts when they were out of the cemetery, burying Tess’s dad and Beadle, again, proposing her, though subtly. Tess wouldn’t agree to that so Beadle gives her wigs, fake eyebrows and make ups to hide her beauty, mainly to hide from the debtors. He asks her never to smile because her smile is that beautiful! He also tells her he’s got a place for her as a companion to a Lady Stadwell, whose husband was also victim of Sloan’s schemes but has since passed on. He assures her that he’ll sell of the townhouse and with the money pay the debtors. She has to wait ‘til then. Seeing no other way, Tess agrees. A few months pass by and Tess now lives with Lady Stadwell, an elderly woman living in an impoverish state after what happened to her husband. She knows nothing about Tess’s plight or who she is. With the pale make up and the ugly wig and eyebrow, Tess is almost unrecognizable. I have no idea how she managed to stay like that but it was indicated that there weren’t a lot of servants; also that Lady Stadwell is near sighted. Anyway, one day, doing one of the things she likes best, gardening, Tess meets Tallon, Lady Stadwell’s nephew. He came in for a visit. He has a black reputation though I am not sure why. Throughout the book, I really didn’t see anything for his so-called reputation was never proven. Tess is glad for her makeup because the only season she had before her father’s suicide, she’d been the toast of the season and very well-known for her looks and her vivid hair. I found it hard to believe that she could hide her such unmatched beauty with a little wig and pale makeup. Even the worldly Tallon never knew!

Tallon has been into the war with French and was injured. He walks with a slight limp but it only adds to his appeal. He’s good looking and charming. Many things were implied to make Tallon look/sound a broody, dark hero but I wasn’t convinced. He came off a bit too indecisive for my choice. Like, on various occasions, he’d want/think of things but would not really act on those. He has a beautiful mistress, waiting to do his every bidding and yet when he meets his aunt’s ‘plain/homely’ companion, he can’t go back to her. Yah right! He likes Hortensia (Tess’s fake name) immensely, likes to talk to her, help her gardening or annoy her while she’s baking pastries. He cherishes the fact that he can unsettle her with his closeness and ruffle her perfect demeanor. I wasn’t really sure what to think because I couldn’t see Tallon falling for Tess, the way she looked with her makeup. Tess got to learn about what Sloan did to Lord Stadwell when Tallon and Lady Stadwell discuss about it. The old woman came up with a plan- the stupidest plans ever, which starts with Tallon’s mistress. Yah, you’re right. The woman kept going on and on and on about his mistress for a long time in the book, which made me wanna tear my hair out! No, I don’t like to know about the hero’s mistress or whatever. Then, Tallon was never embarrassed that his mistress was being discussed for a stupid reason. So, what was the reason? It seems like, Sloan and Tallon studied together in Oxford (or Cambridge, don’t remember). Sloan has this weird obsession for everything that Tallon might tag as his own. The whys of it was never revealed. So he approached Tallon’s mistress and made her offers. The woman was loyal to Tallon and refused Sloan (though it didn’t deter Tallon to kick her out once he saw Tess without makeup!). Now, Lady Stadwell wants to use this mistress to seduce Sloan and bring out his secrets aka information about all those schemes that left many destitute and bring him to justice (duh!). This woman is so focused on revenge that she doesn’t care whatever happens along the way. Tallon objects.

Now, when Tess hears of it, she wants to be ‘that’ woman who would do the deed and would bring Sloan down. She was more than focused on it and wouldn’t care what happens to her in the process. I mean, doesn’t this sound moronic? TSTL? And she proves throughout the story that she really is TSTL. Anyway, at first, to just to assuage his aunt’s interest a bit, Tallon invites a few prostitutes and interview them. Tess, knowing that, barges in the middle of it and humiliates herself in the process. Remember, she’s still in her ugly makeup and Tallon delicately tries to tell her that Sloan is shallow enough to fall only for a beautiful face and body. Then, when those women leave, Tallon tells him this was just a ruse and that he doesn’t care for this scheme because he knows how dangerous Sloan can be. But he can’t, strongly, say anything to his hell-bent-for-revenge aunt or Tess for that matter. In the meantime, Beadle makes an appearance, to tell Tess that he lost her money from the selling of the townhouse to gambling and discreetly offers her to become his mistress. Tallon hears it and throws the man out of the house. My thought was: the man just swindled her money and Tallon did nothing? Tess didn’t scream and shout and kick the man? They just kicked him out and he was never seen again! *blinks* Tess is confused at the moment what she’ll do because soon enough, Tallon finds out her ruse. Now he wants her for himself. Note: he still didn’t break up with his mistress and the woman was still being discussed between them! Then, when Lady Stadwell sees Tess, she offers to be the ‘pawn’ for this scheme. I hated it, how blank her mind went when she’d talk about revenge on Sloan, doing things Tallon exclusively asked her not to do! It pissed me off bigtime.

Back to the story... With Tallon objecting, the crazy old woman brings in the onetime mistress of her deceased husband (no, it wasn’t explained but I got it from clues), a courtesan, to teach the ‘innocent lamb’ of all things naughty. Oh, the courtesan and Lady Stadwell are very good friends and quite fond of each-other. At this point, I was vigorously rolling my eyes! The whole ‘teaching’ part was boring and pointless, because ultimately Tess never had the chance to utilize her so-called skills, not even when she was doing it with Tallon. Sure, in between, there were fondling and oral stuff going on with Tallon, in no uncertain terms telling her he wants her and won’t let her go with it while Tess just discarding his admonitions. She wants Tallon too, keeps daydreaming away about him and ultimately fell in love with him (how, why, I have no idea) but she still wants to whore herself for revenge. Moreover, she was never bothered by all the talks of Tallon’s mistress, never jealous, which disturbed me to no end! So she does what she does best, to act stupid and tries to snare Sloan in her clutches. It went on in a few balls (Tess made appearances, with Lady Stadwell as her benefactress or something like this) and then in the Pleasure Gardens. She tries gaining Sloan’s favors by saying negative things about Tallon, though she hated doing it. And the author wants me to believe she loves him? Great! Sloan ends up proposing to her, which Tess tentatively gives her consent to. All these hurts and angers Tallon. She does bring a few information for Tallon though, which tells us that Sloan is planning an opium transport in China. Also, when Sloan sends flowers for Tess (making Tallon angry, again!), Tallon takes the note from the seller and replaces it with his own coins. The pound note proved to be a fake. For his investigations against Sloan, Tallon was also taking help of a few of his comrades in the war who fought under his command. One was a big man called Cyrus, whom Tallon exclusively appointed to watch over Tess and his aunt.

Anyway, there were more stupid things going on in between (one being Tallon keeping Tess to himself one week, sending his aunt and the servants away, for reasons I’m yet to understand) but I was too bored and the plot was too uneven for me to stick to it. And there were no steamy, hot sex scenes. When those happened finally, I didn’t find them anything special so I don’t know why this book is called an Erotic Historical Romance! As Tallon understood Tess would be forever TSTL, he deceived her into marrying him, telling her they’re going to Scotland to find out the man who makes fake notes for Sloan. He also tells her it’s all fake; the anvil priest, the certificate, the whole ceremony... everything! Tess had some suspicions (I was amazed that she had the ability!) but still went with it. At night, Tallon tells her they’re truly married and he wants his wedding night. Tess refuses and Tallon goes out the door, stomping in anger. After that, don’t ask me anymore because by that time I was willing this book to finish... There’s a kidnapping by Sloan and very easy resolve of all of their problems (stupid spy servant blurted out as Tallon threatened her... *rolls eyes*). Tess did let Tallon make love to her, the last one having been in the cottage where Sloan kept her. The cottage was furnished for this exact endeavor, as Tess was originally supposed to marry Sloan (remember the betrothal?) and live here until they could sail to China. The thought (and what entailed it all), again, makes Tallon angry... yes, he’s been angry all over the book but didn’t really act on it, until by marrying Tess. Whatever! Have to talk about the last love scene, the ‘backdoor loving’ thing. Oh, SB had to slap it on my face to tell me: this IS an Erotic Historical Romance, you b*tch! because the whole book as I mentioned before, was simply tepid.

There was a scene at the very end, where Tess brings out the topic of Tallon’s mistress, again. Tallon jokes, what if he wants to keep her (jerk!) and Tess is jealous... Finally! Whatever!! But Tallon answers her that ‘it’s been over for a longtime now’. Hmm, always getting distracted by the new and shiny, men are! Also, there was this stupid thing about Tallon never kissing his mistress. Initially, it came out when Tess was receiving her lessons from the courtesan, as the woman informed her how Tallon’s mistress bragged on about his ‘accomplishment’ as a lover, things Tess memorized well enough (no description so I have no juicy bits to give you). The mistress also bemoaned that he never kisses, a fact Tess memorizes as well and brought up many times while they were making love or fondling each-other. Tallon never explained, Tess was never jealous and I was heaving exasperated sighs all over it. So, in that last scene, Tallon finally explains that his arrangement with his mistress was ‘a professional liaison’ so he never, in truth, kissed her while with Tess, it’s passionate. How utterly charming! I’m positively swooning over this little information!


But, I had to blabber on about these because they really really bothered me.

3 stars, just because I liked the beginning and SB’s writing style seemed improved in this one.

Warning: might not be for you if you aren’t fond of ‘backdoor loving’!