In this review, Blue Falcon rates Wanton Splendor by Bobbi Smith as an entertaining read, which is good for a Zebra romance.
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
The King of Diamonds
Wanton Splendor begins in 1855 in a gaming hall in New Orleans. (The Big Easy is one of Bobbi Smith’s three go-to settings. The others are St. Louis and Arizona).
Christopher Fletcher, a wealthy man about town from Philadelphia, wins a card game against many players, including Andre Montard, a wealthy Louisiana planter’s son.
There will be many more interactions between Christopher and the Montard family, and none will be positive.
Soon after the card game, Christopher buys a slave, Joel, and sets him free. Joel later becomes Christopher’s manservant.
Christopher’s backstory is that he comes from a wealthy old money Philadelphia family. Both of his parents have passed, and Christopher is bored with life .
He’s looking for adventure, and indeed he will find it!
The Queen of Diamonds
A year later, aboard a steamship headed again for New Orleans, Christopher is in another card game. Among the players are–again–Andre and his father, Emi. Also playing is Mark Kingsford, the younger brother of Kathleen “Katie” Kingsford, our heroine.
Christopher wins against the Montards again, this time winning a plantation called Greenwood–just as Christopher intended. The Montards own his manservant Joel’s wife and son. Christopher had previously tried to free them and reunite them with Joel. He had made an offer for them, but Emil refused, hence, this new tactic.
After the game, Mark, who drank all night and is now three-sheets-to-the-wind, is now heavily under Andre’s malicious influence, tries to pick a fight with Christopher. Mark loses. Seeing her brother knocked out, Katie plants a punch on Christopher!
After this unusual meeting, Katie apologizes for Mark’s behavior. and
She then begins spending time with Christopher–much to Andre’s dismay, who is pursuing her.
Katie and Mark are headed to New Orleans to live with their Uncle Isaac and Aunt Suzanne. Back home, they had lived alone with their father, George, a railroad surveyor, as their mother passed away years ago.
When they reach New Orleans, Katie and Mark discover that “Aunt Suzanne” is far from matronly. She is many years younger than Isaac.
She and Isaac have an unhappy marriage. Like many wealthy Louisiana men, he has a “quadroon” mistress on the side. Suzanne has started taking lovers herself–among them is Andre Montard.
She soon adds her nephew, Mark, to her list of lovers.
Readers soon learn that Christopher didn’t come to New Orleans just for fun. He is working to free slaves with the Underground Railroad. Similarly, he and Joel arrive at Greenwood early to prevent Andre from selling Joel’s wife, Dee.
Christopher and Katie become lovers. MeanwhileSuzanne continues to push Andre’s suit against Katie.
To that end, Suzanne also tries to seduce Christopher herself. She fails. Our hero is no jerk!
Mark also soon discovers Suzanne’s true colors and his auntie. He later falls in love with and marries a young Louisiana woman, Jacqueline La Zear.
The King and Queen of Hearts
The book then shifts to Last Island, off the coast of Louisiana, as the wealthy leave New Orleans to escape the oppressive heat. Tragedy soon strikes when a major hurricane destroys the island; most of the people survive, but Isaac is mortally injured and later dies from his injuries sustained during the storm.
Before he passes, however, Isaac divorces Suzanne and rewrites his will giving much of his fortune to his mistress and true love, Cherie Delabarre, and their son, Denis.
Christopher proposes to Katie, and she accepts.
Andre, who also proposed to Katie, is furious at this turn of events and decides to try to ruin Christopher by exposing his abolitionist actions. Andre tries to blackmail Katie; when Joel tries to intervene, Andre shoots and kills him.
Later, Dee kills Andre.
Aware of what can happen when a slave kills a white man, Katie, and Dee, along with Joel and Dee’s son, flee for St. Louis and the protection of George. When Emil discovers Andre is dead, he tracks the women to St. Louis for revenge.
Christopher is shot by slave patrollers and seriously wounded, but with care and help from Cherie and Mark, he makes it to St. Louis. Emil does catch up with Dee and Katie but is stopped by George from doing them harm.
A Royal Flush
In the end, George stops Emil by offering him a deal: Christopher will give Emil back Greenwood–minus the slaves–in exchange for not telling anyone about Christopher’s activities.
Christopher and Katie, in turn, will not press charges against Emil for abducting Dee.
Mark agrees to stay in New Orleans to be with Jacqui, while Christopher gives up his work with the Underground Railroad and agrees to go west with Katie, Dee, and George, and he will work on the railroad with George.
Katie and Christopher have their Happily Ever After.
I really appreciated Katie’s strong personality. She can fight, shoot, hunt, and do a lot of “unladylike” things, but she can also be very feminine when she wishes.
Christopher is a likable character as well. And although I was disappointed to see him give up helping slaves, it’s understandable given the danger he would be in.
There really isn’t much depth or character development. Then again, there isn’t much depth or character development in any of Mrs. Smith’s books.
There are multiple sex scenes in Wanton Splendor. Some are mildly explicit, although none approach erotica.
Assault, battery, sexual assault, shootings, and killings. None of the violence is graphic.
Bottom Line on Wanton Splendor
Wanton Splendor is similar to the majority of Bobbi Smith’s works. Not spectacular, but really, really good.
|Rating Report Card|
STORM OF PASSION
Kathleen had every intention of keeping her distance from the dangerously handsome Christopher Fletcher. But when a hurricane devastated Derniere Island, she crept into Chris’s arms for comfort. The mocking look in his face made her palm itch to slap him. Yet the animal strength of his lean body and the heat of his breath upon her cheek made her wonder breathlessly what it would be like to kiss those cynical lips, and turn the amused glint in his eyes to the glitter of desire…
Christopher had every intention of keeping his distance from the spirited young Miss Kingsford. But as his eyes moved appreciatively from her windswept hair and fiery jade-green eyes, down to the swell of her rain-soaked bodice, he was overcome by Kathleen’s golden beauty. Pressing his lips to her creamy throat, he slowly caressed her velvet flesh. Amid the fury of passion’s storm, they surrendered forever to…Wanton Splendor by Bobbi Smith