Oh how I love Zebra debut books. You never know what you’ll get, it’s usually good, but it’s also surprising, and for $3.99 (soon to be $4.99) it’s a bargain to boot. Who knew that this one, written by and husband and wife, would live up to the back cover and give a great setting, North Africa, and a touching love story for two people who feel they might have had that choice taken away from them?
Lily Strathmore has been lucky to be able to do what she wants for most of her life. Though she has a meddling mother, she has a doting father, and a love of botanical drawing. She spends most of her time with her uncle, a botanist, drawing the specimens for his books. When James Huntington comes to her uncle asking for help about a mysterious flower found in a remote valley in Tunisia, a grand adventure is planned. It is her last adventure, however, as her mother has now left her no choice and she is forced into an agreement with an eligible candidate of her mother’s choosing.
James is on his own mission. Though he does want to find the flower and give his dead grandfather a legacy, he also is searching for journals hidden in the same remote valley that prove his grandfather found the flower many years before. If he does these things, he gains ownership of his grandfather’s prized estate and horticultural collections. It helps that he needs to get out of London to let a small scandal involving a duel die down.
While preparing for the trip James stays with Lily’s uncle, Sir Edward Strathmore, and begins to fall a bit for Lily when she paints his portrait. Though she’s supposed to be a proper young lady, Lily slips a bit because she knows that her freedom is being taken away from her by her mother’s plans for her upcoming marriage. The trip to North Africa provides them both with the outlet for the frustrations of the present, even while James’ past comes to take things away.
While there is a good portion of the setting in England, the time spent in the exotic areas of North Africa are what set this book apart. The romance between Lily and James is sweet, even though they’re both hiding things from each other, Lily more than James when it could come down to making a successful relationship. James works hard to get what he thinks he’ll need to be good enough for Lily, and she struggles with making her own choices or wishing she could be fine with her mother trying to control her life.
This book, for me, was a bit above average due to the settings in North Africa and the love story of James and Lily, especially when they were honest with each other and there were some secondary characters that helped along the romance through some interesting tricks. The villain works well enough, even though his motivations are never fully brought to the forefront, but that makes him a bit more of a rounded rather than flat villain. I’m curious to see where this husband and wife author team go, there were a few openings for some other stories from some secondary characters.
Before she must wed, Lily Strathmore decides upon one final adventure—a botanical expedition through the wilds of North Africa with her uncle and his family. In search of a fabled bloom, James Huntington soon joins them. Handsome to a fault and rakish to boot, he has the maddening habit of catching Lily at her most improper. And his sensual kisses are only the beginning of their passionate intimacy…
Huntington finds the beautiful Miss Strathmore impossible to resist. With each passing day, their desire for each other grows. And in his wildest dreams, Lily is his—and his alone.
Read an excerpt.