With the turn of a card, Alden Granville-Strachen, Viscount Gracechurch, loses everything. To reclaim his losses, he can accept the following wager: in one week, seduce Mistress Juliet Seton and take her locket.

Alden is an expert seducer, a known heartless rake who believes he will win the wager. Then he meets Juliet in her garden and is stung by a bee (in a very humorous scene) and rendered helpless.

Juliet has reason to be wary of strangers, but cannot ignore a man who, literally, falls at her feet. Alden appears harmless and once recovered, his challenge to a game of chess is a means to pass the time.

But that chess game leads to more games, and soon Juliet is caught in Alden's sweet web of seduction. But so is he. They have no idea of how they are being manipulated and what betrayals, humiliation and scandals await.

Julia Ross brilliantly manipulates an ordinary plot into an extraordinary story using just the right Regency tone, a superb example of Ms. Ross's outstanding storytelling talents and exceptional writing abilities. Intense emotions and passionate, strong characters are the complement to a complex love story, replete with such dastardly villains as Shakespeare might have crafted. SENSUAL (Jun., 357 pp., $12.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin