To Distraction by Stephanie Laurens introduces us to the fifth member of "The Bastion Club" – Jocelyn Deverell, the newly titled Viscount Paignton. "The Bastion Club" is a group of former secret agents who have banded together to find themselves the perfect wife for each without the interference of the ton's meddling mothers.
Deverell is well aware that he needs a wife, but so far, his search has only revealed the simpering misses who spark not one flame of interest for him. Deverell is edgy, not yet used to his newfound civilian life but with the responsibility of an unexpected title and estates, the need for a wife has never been greater. He approaches his aunt, Audrey Deverell, to ask for her advice on finding him a suitable bride. He is surprised to learn that his aunt already has a woman in mind that she feels would be perfect for him. Deverell is stunned to learn that this paragon of perfection is no other than his aunt's goddaughter, Phoebe Malleson.
From the instant Deverell meets Phoebe at a house party, he is intrigued. When he learns she is proud to be firmly on the shelf, he is even more intrigued. Inspired by her aversion to marriage, Deverell begins a methodical seduction of the fair Phoebe. Phoebe has no time for romance. At the age of twenty-five, this independently wealthy woman answers to no one. She has a rather harsh view of matrimony, and is unwavering in her determination to remain single. With the ghosts of her past, and her current "occupation," Phoebe sees no room for a man, no matter how devilishly handsome.
However, her firm stance against marriage does nothing but encourages Deverell's efforts, and somewhere along the way Phoebe finds herself reluctantly spellbound by this unusual man. Unfortunately, Phoebe feels that she cannot be distracted by this man; she is well aware of the price if she were to trust Deverell. She has secrets he must never learn, and is getting far too close as things are. But, what can she do? Every time he comes near, Phoebe makes mistakes and she cannot have such a distraction in her life.
A woman with a secret combined with a man who lived, until recently, to extract secrets, make for an unforgettable match. While Phoebe is torn, one question rings the loudest: if Deverell learns her secrets, will he help or hurt her? While Deverell is enchanted by the thrill of the chase, will he be able to convince this stubborn woman that the passion between them is more than a meaningless affair?
I found the novel and all its characters to be passionate as well as romantic. Deverell and Phoebe are colorful, well-developed characters with whom it is easy to connect and empathize. To Distraction is a wonderfully written novel and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy bold heroines with strong wills and even stronger minds.
While To Distraction can be easily read as a stand-alone, I believe that you would get the most out of it if you have read the novels which preceed it. These novels are, in order, The Lady Chosen, A Gentleman's Honor, A Lady Of His Own, and A Fine Passion, and all, in my opinion, worth a read.