When I read Cecilia Grant's debut novel I decided she was the author I should keep tabs on. And she proved my initial assessment was correct. While Sherry Thomas is still God of historical romance to me, Cecilia Grant is now hot on her heels. If she keeps improving with every book like that, she might very well soon find the romance genre too limiting for her and end up winning a Pulitzer or something. I kid you not. If there is such a thing as a 'literary romance', this is it. None of the auburn hair and emerald eyes bullshit here. The physical appearance descriptions are kept to minimum but paint a better picture than endless banging on about people's eyes. Cecilia Grant basically took every rule and cliche in historical romance and flipped it upside down. Take the heroine - her main hobbies are numbers and sex. And for once the heroine is allowed a satisfying sex life before she gets it on with the hero. It's the hero who remains celibate until they hit it off. They are both down and out. He is not her saviour, he doesn't have a title, in fact, with her head for numbers, she has a better chance of reversing their fortunes. She tries to teach him the rudiments of the theory of probability so they can gamble smartly and is exasperated when he keeps on talking about things like luck, hunches, intuition, or the worst of all - feelings. They are both damaged goods, broken, messed up and full of self-hate. She uses sex like one might use alcohol - a friend and an enemy, to give her pain and pleasure, reward and punishment, and to make the world disappear for a few moments. And don't you think that it will be different when he touches her, that she will be transformed the first moment. No, sir, doesn't work that way. She drags him to her own hell first. Those are not love scenes, those are sex scenes. And good God, they are hot. If I ever meet Cecilia Grant, I will blush, knowing that she wrote all that, and I read all that, and the things I saw with my mind's eye. So do they get a happy ending? It is a romance novel, so of course they do. But it is not your traditional happy ending. They are given love and nothing else. That will have to be enough. No beautiful coincidences, all round forgiveness, fame, fortune and good health. Still, love though. And they should be happy with that, because according to the theory of probability, the odds were not on their side. And this concludes my bodice ripper reading for this season. One more might just send me over the edge.