Lady Sophie York just doesn't get it. As a young aristocratic woman in 19th-century London, she ought to be shy, chaste and more interested in finding a husband than in reading books. Instead she studies languages, neglects to wear a corset under her bosomy gowns (to the horror of her mother) and rejects every man who asks for her hand. Only the dashing Patrick Foakes, with his unruly black hair and devil's-arch eyebrows, can tame her. She loves him. He loves her. But both are too proud to admit it, even after deciding to marry.
Though the idea of reading a historical romance may cause some to quiver (and not in a good way), James has penned a fun follow-up to last year's Potent Pleasures. "He smelled like a midsummer night," she writes of one of Patrick and Sophie's many trysts. "Like the midsummer madness that was racing through her veins like potent canary wine." Romance writing does not get much better than this. It's cliché-ridden, to be sure, but that's what makes this Pleasure such a wonderfully guilty one. (Delacorte, $19.95)