Holt plays into fantasies like a virtuoso who strikes chords that are blatantly seductive but with the subtle nuances that draw us into temptation. Dark and rich as the finest chocolate, Holt's latest sizzles while delving into the dark and light side of humanity and delivering an erotic powerhouse of emotion.
An orphan, Margaret Gray depends on the charity of her vicious aunt, Lavinia, and spoiled cousin, Penelope. Without a dowry, she has no chance of marriage, but when Jordan Prescott, Viscount Kettering, arrives to offer for Penelope, she dares to dream of passion. A known rake, Jordan must marry for money. His father, the earl, has run up enormous bills, and Jordan would marry the very devil to save his family -- until he mistakes Margaret for Penelope and believes he's found a bit of heaven.
Jordan tempts Margaret to seize the opportunity to learn about passion, even if their liaison cannot last -- and even if their relationship is based on lust and there are no promises of love. But after Jordan's dissolute father and his mistress arrive; Penelope decides she'd rather have an earl then a viscount; and Lavinia strives to secure the earl for herself, the fur flies. Father and son, mother and daughter vie for money and scheme for a title, with Margaret hoping only for love. (St. Martin's, Mar., 352 pp., $6.99)