cover image The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell

The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell

Samantha James, . . Avon, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-06-089645-4

Other than a secret that takes too long to reveal, this Victorian romance from James (A Perfect Hero ) concerning the troubled union of fiery Annabel McBride and tormented Simon Blackwell is just about perfect: rich, meaty, sexy and honest. Upon meeting, the two immediately set to butting heads, but it isn't long before an instant of weakness finds them in a passionate lip lock. Just like that, their fate is sealed: Anne's reputation is compromised and the two are married. Simon, haunted by unmentionable heartbreak, refuses to consummate the marriage, planning to divorce her after a year or so; Anne is horrified at the prospect and determined to make a genuine husband out of him. Simon thwarts her every attempt until his past catches up with him, and she finds the way to bring him back from self-imposed emotional exile. Simon's dark secret, hinted at throughout, may frustrate readers, but it also lends the book an enticing gothic edge. James's writing is assured, her story moves well, and she has a fine pair of leads in Anne and Simon; their hard-won happily ever after will satisfy any historical romance fan. (Apr.)