The Taste of Innocence is the fourteenth novel in the Cynster series, but it works very well as a standalone book with just occasional glimpses of characters from the other books. It gives an interesting insight into the wooing and the early days of a marriage between an Earl and a woman whom he has known his entire life.
Twenty-three-year-old Sarah Conningham is part of a happy family, and her nature is warm and loving.
The reason that she has turned down several offers of marriage in the last few years is because she believes that marriage without love isn't worth it - she's only going to marry for love. The inconvenient attraction she feels for Charlie Morwellan, eighth Earl of Meredith, is something she has to ignore as he has no interest whatsoever in her.
When Charlie offers for Sarah, it is because he knows she will make the perfect countess. They have grown up together, and although they don't know each other well, he knows that she is just what he needs. He's surprised
when she doesn't instantly accept his proposal but instead asks for two weeks to get to know him. Charlie decides to use the time to persuade her into the marriage and goes about this with traditional wooing mixed up with sensual experience. A lot of the first section of the book details their kissing and more, but it's well-written and gives an idea of the characters, their thoughts, and how they are getting to know each other.
The second part of the book follows their early days of marriage when Charlie realizes he has fallen in love with his wife but is afraid it will cause him to make bad decisions as his father did, so he tries to withdraw. Although while reading the story this makes some kind of sense, subsequently it all seems a bit unlikely. However, Charlie and Sarah's relationship has its troubles, and some unfortunate events take place at an orphanage of which Sarah is the patroness. Is there a deeper plot against the owner of the orphanage? Will Charlie come to his senses? What is the link with the railway scam and their troubles?
Although there's a fair amount of sex in this book, it's written in a pleasant and loving style and is part of the overall plot. The characters grow and change as the story progresses, Sarah coming into her element as countess and understanding more about her husband than perhaps he does, Charlie realizing that his priorities in life up to now haven't been right. The
"baddie" in this story is a rather half-hearted one, and it's fairly easy to guess who it
is, but the plot about the attacks on the orphanage add interest to the story. Overall, The Taste of Innocence
is an enjoyable read, and although sometimes Charlie seems to speak in a rather modern American manner about emotions, it's good to have a happy ending without too much heartache in the middle.