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Cathy Sova

The very best romance novels are almost like an adrenaline rush: there's the excitement of realizing that you are hooked, the intense focus that comes with being totally engrossed, and the sweet, oh-so-satisfied letdown when the last page is turned.

The Cad gave me all of this and more. Christmas came early this year, and it was in the form of a scarred heroine, a rake who down deep believes that he's a lousy lover, a wild ending that took me completely by surprise, and some of the most tender love scenes I've ever enjoyed. This one goes straight to the keeper shelf.

Bridget Cooke is acting as a companion to her spoiled cousin Cecily, one of several such posts she's held since the death of her father seven years earlier. It's not a bad job; she gets to attend some of London's social events, as long as she's willing to stay in the background and let her relatives order her around and insult her unthinkingly. Not a problem. Bridget has a scar on her face, the result of a dog bite as a child, and she truly believes no man would ever be interested in her. To her, careless insults are mere truth.

Then one night, while attending a ball with Cecily, quiet Bridget is astonished to draw the attention of Ewen, Viscount Sinclair. He approaches her in an entryway and offers to make her his mistress. Bridget is outraged and tells him off, laced with several acid observations on the type of men who approach physically-imperfect women. Ewen isn't deterred. Rather, he's fascinated by this lovely young woman who makes such an issue of a meaningless two-inch mark. There's something here he never expected to find, and now that he has, he's not letting it go. He'll try again.

And try again he does, in a lovely and surprising fashion that left me stunned and delighted. Bridget, while intrigued by this handsome and intelligent man, is firm in her resolve to keep her reputation intact. No carte blanche for her. By this time, Ewen is too far gone to care. Instead of a mistress, will she be his wife? Bridget hesitates. The viscount's attentions have enraged her aunt and cousin, who hoped to catch the wealthy Ewen for Cecily. Her aunt delivers an ultimatum, and Bridget delivers herself into Ewen's arms. They are wed.

This is not the happily-ever-after point, however. Ewen finds himself more and more ensnared by Bridget, but unable to believe he's actually falling in love. Bridget gradually must grow to trust Ewen; her faith in him will be tested to the utmost. Ewen's past holds a secret he's terrified to tell Bridget. When it all came to light, it's not what this reader expected.

I adored Ewen. Kind, amorous, intelligent, completely and totally devoted to his lovely Bridget, he's secretly unsure that he can hold her. I found it absolutely endearing that he doesn't see her scar. She's simply beautiful Bridget, everything he's wanted and didn't think he needed.

Bridget was equally engaging. Living with an imperfect face in a society that prizes physical perfection has made her strong, people-smart, and a bit world-weary. She's such a strong and lively character that after a while, readers will forget about her scar just as Ewen does. Layton accomplishes this with dialogue that continually deepens our understanding of these two lovers.

And the sexual tension between these two is strong right from the start. Ewen's determination to show Bridget that her scar is immaterial, and Bridget's longing for this handsome, humorous man, combine to produce an underlayment of desire that gently permeates the story.

The Cad is a wonderful story, plain and simple. This is one cad you'll take straight to your heart.

Kathe Robin

A horrible scar mars her otherwise beautiful countenance, and Bridget has no illusions about her disfigurement. She never expects to marry, yet she is secretly thrilled about going to London as her cousin's companion.

Despite her disfigurement, Ewen, The Viscount Sinclair, is attracted to Bridget. A notorious rake, his sweet seduction overcomes Bridget's shyness. He falls in love with her and proposes. Believing in his love, Bridget risks her family's scorn and social ruin to run off and marry him by special license.

The honeymoon is heavenly, but his sudden departure leaves Bridget in a strange position. Servants and visitors alike treat her more as Ewen's mistress than his wife. It is clear that something is not right, but when Ewen's supposedly dead wife appears, Bridget believes she understands what has happened. Yet her courage compels her to make a stand, defend Ewen and wait until reappears to learn if he truly is a cad.

Edith Layton not only understands the nuances of Regency culture, she also understands the deepest emotions that rule the heart. Her atypical and wonderfully real characters (flaws and all), a mystery, and love's faith combine to turn THE CAD into a real treasure.

Kimberly Borrowdale
Highly Recommended

Bridget Cooke was well-born but must earning her living working as a companion for various relatives. Currently, she is chaperoning her cousin Cecily's London Season. There is not much fear that any man will be interested in Bridget instead, for not only is she firmly on the shelf, she has a disfiguring scar across her face.

Viscount Sinclair sees the young lady, obviously a companion to one of the debutantes, and is intrigued by her beauty that only seems enhanced by the scar on one cheek. He finds her in the hallway that she has been banished to and offers her carte blanche. Bridget refuses--she may be impoverished, but she is still a lady and still has her morals.

Cousin Cecily also finds Viscount Sinclair swooningly handsome, and is in high alt when he calls on her--but it is Bridget he again manages to corner alone. Bridget tries to fight her attraction to the known rake... and then there are the rumors about his mysterious doings on the Continent, as well as his dead wife. One thing is certain: Sinclair is the type of man to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

Bridget and Sinclair are an electrifying couple, and the sparks between them will keep the reader as enthralled as wondering about Sinclair's past--and the couple's future--will. THE CAD is as titillating, dangerous, and irresistible as its title would lead one to expect, as well as being full of passion and plot twists that I could have never imagined. Brava, Ms. Layton!

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