Provocative in Pearls is the second book in Hunter's "Rarest Blooms" series and builds well on the previous book, while being completely accessible to a newcomer to the series.
Grayson, Earl of Hawkeswell, has been living in limbo for two years. The young, biddable heiress he wed disappeared shortly after the wedding ceremony and apparently drowned in the Thames. However, with no body - and no consummation - things are a legal mess. He is unable to access the funds he desperately needs, he cannot get an annulment or marry another and has been the subject of some rather nasty gossip and speculation. Quite by accident, he finds his bride and is relieved to finally put his life back into motion. However, his wife has other ideas.
Verity Thompson's late father was a wealthy ironworks manufacturer whose sudden death put Verity under the power of her greedy cousin who threatened Verity's old nurse and her family unless she wed Hawkeswell. When, after the wedding, she discovered that the threats were carried out anyway, Verity fled and has found refuge with the women of The Rarest Blooms, who run a floral and nursery business of the same name. Verity has recently reached her majority and was about to come out of hiding to seek an annulment on the basis of coercion. Grayson has other ideas and puts into motion his plan to seduce Verity into becoming his wife in all - and indisputable - ways.
While at first glance Grayson seems the stereotypical cash-strapped peer, he is much more. These two years of close to abject poverty have changed him; he is still very much an autocratic earl, but now tempered with a real concern for those who depend upon him and an appreciation of a good reputation. And Verity is much more than simply an independent cit's daughter. She truly has no interest in Grayson's world of the ton and pines for the life she grew up with, the life she planned with her father, the life she should have had. She has some real anger at the loss of that life and has a hard time reconciling and fitting into her new one.
The supporting characters add a great deal to the narrative and are full-bodied and intriguing personalities. Provocative in Pearls continues the fine storytelling of the previous book in the series and whets the appetite for more.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, March 25, 2010