Mar 10 2014 9:30am

First Look: Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder (March 18, 2014)

Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

Rose Lerner
Sweet Disorder (Lively Lemeston #1)
Samhain Publishing / March 18, 2014 / $5.50 digital

Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he's lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings. But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.

One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town's by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl's son, she can't. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe's last-ditch defense against her sister's ruin is her vote-and her hand.

Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they'll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty...or love.

There's lots of fascinating political maneuvering and intrigue going on in Rose Lerner's Sweet Disorder, but what kept me riveted was Nick and Phoebe's relationship. They both grew up with very dominating mothers who continue to try and rule their lives and teach have developed very different reactions to it.

Phoebe responded to her mother's constant criticism by becoming biting and acerbic, marrying the first man she could to escape the house. She's the widow Sparks now and content to be so, but is gaining a reputation as the town grump.

“Did you like being married?” he asked bluntly.

“No,” she snapped, and then pressed her fist into her mouth as if she could believe she'd said it. “I mean—yes,” she amended after a moment. “Sometimes. I—it wasn't Will's fault. Lord, I'm a beast.”

This was interesting.

“Of course you're not a beast, ma'am,” Sukey said. “Men are impossible to live with, that's all.” She put a hand on her mistress's shoulder.

As if that made her remember how cold she was, Mrs. Sparks shivered. “I'm impossible to live with too,” she said sadly. Then she shot him a glare. “Which is why I live alone.”

Nick escaped as well, into the army, but is now home after having been injured. His response to his mother's belief that he has always been a disappointment is an almost desperate need to be liked and say what people would like to hear, but always in a charming and humorous manner.

Nick had thought his family was glib, while he had a knack for getting along with people. He'd thought they were manipulative, while he was agreeable and easygoing. But all along he'd been just like them, presenting what he thought people wanted…

He'd always focused on his partner in bed because he was afraid to focus on himself. Why? Was he afraid that if he didn't satisfy, she wouldn't want him anymore? Was he afraid that if he really wanted her, if he really let himself feel how much he wanted her, he would feel how much it hurt when he lost her?

Both recognize the other's coping mechanism but fall hard anyway. The scene where Nick and Phoebe make love for the first time, finally shedding their facades and being completely honest with each other, makes for a raw and riveting scene.

She traced a design on the tabletop. “So you're afraid that if you ask me for what you want, I won't like what I hear. And I'm afraid that if I ask for what I want, I'm selfish and unwomanly.”

He had to laugh. “The spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.”

“They do indeed.” She laughed a little too, stray locks of dark hair shaking as they fell across her face. All at once he felt light-headed. Honesty was difficult, but this was his reward. His heart was in his throat, but he had faced down French guns. He could do this…

So he met her eyes straight on and said seriously, “I think we both want the same thing.”

She swallowed. “Do we?”

He took a deep breath. “I want you. I want you very much.”

There it was. No saying later he hadn’t cared one way or the other. No pretending she hadn't understood him. No possible salve for his pride if this went wrong…

Her smile widened and widened, that one pointy tooth indenting her lower lip. Her face glowed like a bonfire on a rainy day, warming every tingling inch of his skin. He smiled back, helplessly.

“I have an idea.” She said.

“You do?”

“It's—it's like a game.” Her smile dimmed a little turning uncertain again, but she forged ahead. “We'll take turns. Saying things we want. ”Just—little things. We can ask for anything but we have to say it, not just do it. And either of us can always say no, and then we'll just ask for something different."

It was going to be unlike any sex he'd ever had, but it sounded—fun. Not just arousing or wicked or bound to drive him mad—though it was all those things—but fun.

It was also going to be more difficult than any sex he'd ever had.

I've read thousands of love scenes, and very few now really give me a sense of anticipation. But this one did, leaving me breathless at Nick and Phoebe's stark honesty and need.

Learn more or order a copy of Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner, out March 18, 2014:

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Cheryl Sneed reviews for

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