Sebastian Audley has spent years setting every city in Europe by the ears and keeping the scandal-sheets in profit. Word that he is finally returning to London becomes the hottest topic of the Season and casts numerous young ladies - many of whom have never seen him - into a fever of anticipation.
Cassandra Delahaye is not one of them. In her opinion, love affairs and duels, coupled with a reputation for never refusing even the most death-defying wager, suggest that Mr. Audley is short of a brain cell or two. And while their first, very unorthodox meeting shows that perhaps he isn't entirely stupid, it creates other reservations entirely.
Sebastian finds dodging admiring females and living down his reputation for reckless dare-devilry a full-time occupation. He had known that putting the past behind him in a society with an insatiable appetite for scandal and gossip would not be easy. But what he had not expected was to become the target of a former lover's dangerous obsession...or to find himself falling victim to a pair of storm-cloud eyes.
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If you've listened to audiobooks by this terrific author/narrator team before, you'll know you're in for another treat. If you haven't - you're really missing out!
In this fourth book in the Rockliffe series, we meet Sebastian Audley, who has spent most of the last six or seven years living it up royally on the Continent and earning himself one hell of a reputation. There's no wager too risky, no lady too unattainable and no bottle too undrinkable for Sebastian, and tales of his exploits as he cut a dash through Europe have spread far and wide. The women want him, and the men want to be him - in short he has the devil's own reputation.
The problem is - what happens when, in his late twenties, he decides it's time to grow up and settle down? A reputation such as his is going to take a hell of a lot of living down, but he has to try.
Miss Cassandra Delahaye is fed up with hearing her younger sister and her friends swooning over the exploits of "Wicked Cousin Sebastian" and thinks he must be an absolutely insufferable man. Their first, accidental, meeting, would seem to confirm this opinion of Cassie's but as the pair of them begin to see more of each other, she discovers instead that Sebastian is warm, witty and kind - and she is well and truly smitten.
What follows is a traditional courtship story, something which is perhaps a little unusual in historical romance these days, when there are so many spies and pirates dashing through the pages of the genre. With a reputation like his, Sebastian knows he has to do everything by the book if he is to persuade Cassie's father to entrust him with her hand and her heart.
There's much to enjoy here besides the sweetly sensual romance between Sebastian and Cassie. We are re-introduced to the Rockliffe set - including the man himself as a new father - and are reminded once again of this author's gift for writing male friendships and snappy dialogue. It's also terribly refreshing to encounter a family like Cassie's well-adjusted, and loving, and to see the seeds of reconciliation begin to take root between Sebastian and his father.
Alex Wyndham delivers another nigh-on perfect performance that's so good it's hard to find something to say about him that I haven't said before. Technically, he's spot on, and I'm amazed at the way he is able to give voice to so many different characters - both male and female - without there ever being any confusion as to who is speaking at any one time. His interpretation of Sebastian is wonderful, light and airy, but with a hint of steel beneath, and I loved his characterisation of Grandpa Maitland, who appears early on in this and whose meeting with his new grandson-in-law - Adrian, from The Player - is a hoot.
In short, The Wicked Cousin is a superb listen and not to be missed.
From the moment Alex Wyndham starts reading one of the best and most moving Prologues I have heard for a long time, Stella Riley’s words transport you into her world of pure magic. She has to be one of the best Georgian storytellers currently writing. The hero in this, the fourth book of the superb Rockliffe series, is Sebastian Audley – who is just eight years old when his twin brother dies and Sebastian’s life takes a dramatic turn. For what follows is that Sebastian has little control of his life and this continues until he graduates from Cambridge with a first class degree, freedom and a plan. And boy how he enjoys his plan! However, after a thoroughly good romp throughout Europe where he has lived life to the full, performing dare devil escapades, enjoying many liaisons and learning to excel at chess – something that becomes so relevant and touching at the end of the book - fate plays a hand and Sebastian finally returns home realising he would like a less hectic life. Once back, he enters London society – but the young bucks challenge him with absurd wagers and all wait with eager anticipation to see what Sebastian will do next. Needless to say it’s not what one expects … after all, this is a Stella Riley story. I’ll say no more as this would spoil the entertainment but Ms Riley once again writes a terrific story with several twists. What I will say is that the Riley/Wyndham team is a force to be reckoned with. Ms Riley’s writing is concise and articulate, avoiding irrelevances to concentrates on her characters. Her strength in creating dialogue between her characters result in people who actually live off the page and, when linked with Alex Wyndham’s amazing ability to perform male and female voices that are so distinct from each other the result is a perfect combination. Thank you once again Stella Riley and Alex Wyndham. This audio is ‘An absolute treat’ and one that should not be missed.