Grayson, Earl of Hawkeswell has existed in marital limbo for two long years. The bride that he was marrying for her fortune disappeared on their wedding day and his inability to confirm her death has prevented him from being able to access her much-needed funds and from being able to find another wife. Thus starts the plot of Provocative In Pearls, Madeline Hunter’s sequel to Ravishing in Red. A chance discovery of his errant bride, Verity, causes the jilted groom to attempt to enforce his will upon her and results in the unwelcome discovery that she is adamantly opposed to his autocratic ways and has the fortitude to defy him whenever possible. Lord Hawkeswell discovers that not only does his runaway spouse want an annulment but she wants to take over control of the ironworks that her late father operated so successfully using a secret process known only to her and to his trusted assistant. Verity is determined to keep her husband to “name only” status but is gradually seduced by his insidious bargain of three kisses a day in lieu of marital relations while they are becoming reacquainted. Lord Hawkeswell slowly uncovers the untold depths of her character as she seeks to determine what has happened to those who have opposed the actions of her conniving cousin while attempting to resist the attractions of her unwanted aristocratic husband.
This is a delightful addition to Hunter’s alliterative series which focuses on women with shadowy elements in their pasts who find each other and receive sanctuary with no questions asked. A different look at the aristocracy versus working class distinction since Verity dreads becoming involved with the upper class and knows that her own peers will be disdainful of Lord Hawkeswell. This is a nice tie-in with the main couple from the first novel in the series (Audrianna and Sebastian Summerhays) with intermittent glimpses of the subjects of the next books in the series.
When Verity’s past abruptly finds her, her recent behavior promises to unleash the scandal of the decade. Of more concern to her, she now has to outwit fate or be forced back into a marriage to a lord whom she never freely accepted. She never expects for the stranger who is her husband to create so much sensual excitement, however, or for her quest for the life she was supposed to live instead to reveal a conspiracy that endangers them both.