Assured of both money and position, none of the five friends who form the Merry Widows need ever marry again. But they have no intention of forsaking physical pasion for the rest of their lives. So they make a daring pact -- each will consider taking a lover for the pure pleasure of it.
Marianne Nesbitt adored her late husband, David, but the racy reminiscences of the Merry Widonws make her wonder if she missed something special. Might she find it now through a love affair? Uncertain how to go about it, she asks Adam Cazenove, an old friend and notorious rake, to tutor her in the arts of seduction.
The brazen request turns Adam's world upside down. He never imagined his best friend's very proper and exceedingly attractive widow would seek out a lover. If not for his recent betrothal, he would jump at the chance to warm her bed. Since he cannot bear the thought of another man doing so, he foils her ever attempt at seduction. Until one night of unintended passion changes everything...
What is reiterated throughout the book is that Marianne will be happy for the rest of her life if she never marries again. Fortunately, her wealth and status in society have placed her in a position to not want for anything. But she does miss male companionship. For the past two years, she's always been secure in her friendship with Adam, whose house is right next door. So close, in fact, that it's an easy climb from his sitting room balcony to Marianne's. While he'd visited her and David in this manner years ago, his visits lately have fallen off and are now only sporadic. Funny enough, even while Marianne denies any need for a man, when the Merry Widow's began hatching the plan for all of them to take lovers, the first man in her mind was Adam.
IN THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT has one of my favorite tropes, that of the less-than-nice, possibly misunderstood mother-in-law. While Marianne's MIL may not be evil incarnate, she just can't quite understand why her daughter-in-law will not martyr her beloved David and wear widow's weeds for the rest of her natural life. While Marianne loved David, she's long suspected that the time they shared in bed wasn't as earth-shattering as it might have been, but still ...she'll always love her husband. It takes one of her dear friend's sharing the news that she's taken on a lover of her own for Marianne to really become uncomfortable with the idea that she's possibly giving up the physical benefits of relations with a man if she continues on her current path.
What progresses throughout the pages is an almost natural growth between Marianne and Adam from friends to, ultimately, lovers. Even though they never thought such a thing could happen between them, it feels almost right. Although Adam may deny it to assuage any guilt, he's always been attracted to Marianne; but her husband had been his best friend! His recent engagement is a hindrance to any relationship with Marianne, but even though he denies himself of her charms for a while, he cannot allow her to be with any other man...period. All of her possible candidates lack the character needed to become Marianne's lover, and if one qualified for it, Adam easily makes something up.
I, apparently, have some catching up to do. While I've bought several of Candice Hern's books and they patiently wait for me on the TBR, I've obviously been missing out on some great reading. It was a nice step for me to get back into some historical romance, which I've neglected lately.