From the Back Cover:
In a bet between two old flames . . .
Rex Leighton dominates the boardroom by day and prowls the ballroom at night. Searching for the perfect bride to usher him into the aristocracy, he abandoned the idea of love the last time he saw the delicious May Sedgwick. But when he’s roped into a bet, where the prize is the means to fund his greatest ambition and the stakes are a marriage he’s already planning for, Rex is willing to go all in. There’s just one problem—he’s competing against the only woman he’s ever loved.
Only love can take it all
May Sedgwick could be the belle of the season . . . if she cared. She is more interested in the art studio than the marriage market and her craving to pursue her passion far outweighs her wish for a titled husband. Winning this bet will finally allow May to follow her true artistic desires. Rex losing is just a side benefit, as are his breathtaking kisses that she just can’t resist.
When May is forced to choose between the dream she never knew she wanted and the man she’s never been able to forget, Rex must convince her desire is worth a bit of danger.
I was drawn to One Dangerous Desire for several reasons: it takes place in the late Victorian period, it features Americans in London, and the hero and heroine are competing against each other to win a bet. May Sedgwick, daughter of an American department store baron, came to London for one purpose: to find a titled husband. But, raised in her father's business world, she also has dreams of running her own business one day. A talented artist, May has a passion for interior design, but it's unlikely any English husband would approve of his wife in trade. However, opportunity comes her way in the form of her best friend's father, the Duke of Ashworth, who is thinking about redecorating his Mayfair mansion and is willing to consider May for the job. But there's someone else angling for his patronage: self-made tycoon Rex Leighton, who dreams of building the grandest hotel in London and needs Ashworth's investment to make it a reality.
May is shocked to see her first love in London, the young clerk who abandoned her and broke her heart six years ago in New York. Rex knew May was in London, but he vowed to stay away from her, believing himself to be unworthy of her affection and not wanting to interfere with her future. But neither is prepared for the rush of feelings that accompany their reacquaintance. The duke, being a bit of a romantic and a trickster, and sensing something between May and Rex, offers them a chance to compete for his patronage. Knowing that both are seeking titled spouses to further their positions in society, he challenges them to find their future mates, and the first one who does wins the bet. Both May and Rex have prospects in mind, but over the course of the next few weeks, seeing each other at every social function on the arms of others makes them realize that, after all these years, they still only have eyes for each other. May finally learns the reason Rex left her behind and comes to understand the demons from his childhood that drive his ambition, and Rex recognizes May's talent and applauds her dreams for a career of her own. But before they can act on their feelings for one another, they have to reevaluate the futures they've chosen for themselves and determine what's most important to them. Do they stick with their sensible plans or take a chance on love?
This was my first time reading Christy Carlyle, and I was very impressed with the writing and the dimensional, intriguing characters, including several secondary characters whom I'm hoping will feature in future books. But the story itself fell a bit short for me. From the description, I was really looking forward to a battle of wills where Rex and May would try to out-do each other in a game of one-uppance as they battled to win the bet. But since it turns out that to win the bet all one of them has to do is get engaged before the other, that intense competition doesn't happen, especially since neither of them really wants to be with anyone else anyway. I also expected their reunion to take a bit longer. Six years apart is a long time, and while the author does a good job of letting us see glimpses of the past and the young love they shared, I expected May to put up more of a fight when the man who broke her heart suddenly reappears and wants another chance. There are a couple of subplots involving their fathers and their attempts to use their children for their own gain, but overall, I found the story to be a little plain and ho-hum. But I give the story big props for its business-minded slant, for endearing characters, and for a sweet epilogue that left me with a big smile on my face.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
*This review was originally posted to Romantic Historical Reviews.