When I have a book hangover the night after a marathon reading session,  you can be sure the book in question in a keeper. Thank you, The Elusive Lord Everhart, for leaving me bleary-eyed, puffy-faced, and crabby on a Wednesday morning. Despite the mass quantities of caffeinated beverages I’ve just consumed I still want to crawl under a blanket with a nice cup of tea and read the next installment in this fantastic new series by Vivienne Lorret. Today’s stop on the Tasty Virtual Book Tour features a review in which I detail every reason you will want a Lord Everhart of your very own and a giveaway of Lorret’s previous novels (which I want to win as badly as a single gal fights for the bridal bouquet throwaway at a wedding).

The Elusive Lord Everhart, like so many amazing historical romance stories, begins with a secret. Five years ago, Miss Calliope Croft received an unbelievably romantic love letter containing everything you might hope for in a secret admirer’s correspondence: passion, love, and a proposal of marriage. What held the promise for a lifetime of happiness ultimately left Calliope alone, heartbroken, and firmly on the shelf…or so she thought. A fortuitous visit to a cousin brings Calliope face-to-face with the author of that letter, the devastatingly handsome and seductive Gabriel Ludlow, Viscount Everhart, who’s just bet a fortune on the promise that he’ll never marry. Kept apart by secrets, lies, and the always-present self-preservation instinct (gotta protect those hearts, folks), Gabriel and Calliope soon find themselves unable to stay away from one another.

Despite a slightly confusing start (the first chapter made reference to several previous novels I hadn’t read), Lorret’s latest tale has all of my favorite romantic tropes in one nuanced, well-written package. Everhart’s the perfect kind of rake–sexy and seductive, but with hidden depth and character. He’s nursing a broken ankle throughout much of the story, which seems to make him more approachable, less intimidating, and in just the right state of vulnerability to encounter the woman he’s spent the past five years pining over. Calliope is presented as a spinster by choice. Unable to stomach the idea of wedding anyone other than the author of the letter that stole her heart, she’s refused proposals, suitors, and a genteel lifestyle in favor of independence (or as much independence as a 24 year old regency woman could realistically possess). She’s the perfect foil for Everhart, and when they get together, they spark.

Lorret does something really special with Everhart and Calliope. Yes, there are all kinds of plot devices keeping them apart–the letter, the bet Everhart makes with his hot friends, Calliope’s overprotective brother and dreadful cousin, Everhart’s own childhood issues–but it’s obvious from the moment they reunite that they CANNOT. STAY. APART. Their attraction and sexual tension is INTENSE, but rather than give in to it immediately, as they both obviously want to do, they take the path of so many cowards in love before them: ANGER. Maybe I have some problems, ya’ll, but I adore novels with heroes and heroines who are so crazy about each other that they resort to angry outbursts, shameless teasing, and ridiculous challenges just so that they can stand in the same vicinity, and (if they’re lucky) maybe end up touching one another in the process. It’s a total kids-in-the-schoolyard approach to romance and I love it. (See my love of Not Quite a Husband, Tempting the Bride, and, in an upcoming review, I Loved a Rogue for reference). This kind of emotional self-preservation just makes for such a compelling, deeply moving romance, which is exactly what you’ll find in The Elusive Lord Everhart.

There are all kinds of tangential events and characters keeping Everhart and Calliope apart, but they are so secondary that I won’t even bother with the spoilers. I will say that “the bet” that begins the novel is less about Everhart and Calliope’s story and more about starting a new series, I think, so those of you with aversions to gambling men need not worry. There’s a great plot twist that reminds me a bit of the Elinor-Edward-Lucy debacle in Sense and Sensibility, but again the main driver of this romance is the amazing connection between Everhart and Calliope.

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