Masquerade by Gabrielle Bisset is the story of Annelisa Fielding. Her father is a rich industrialist and so she's never wanted for anything material in her entire life. However, her father, despite his wealth, can't give Annelisa a title. Annelisa isn't remotely interested in one, but her father wants the social status and starts arranging a marriage between his eldest daughter and the Earl of Swindon, a very unpleasant man twice her age.
Annelisa is distraught. She wants to marry for love, regardless of social status, but her father and the Earl have come up with a deal - Swindon will have his debts paid off in return for having Annelisa as a wife. There is, however, a catch. Swindon demands that his future wife be a virgin. When Annelisa discovers this, she devises a plan to be rid of her virginity, nullifying the offer between her father and the Earl. So she needs to find someone - and fast.
Her answer comes in the shape of Count Nikolai Shetkolov, a Russian diplomat in the service of the Tsar and stationed in England. When a masquerade ball event arrives, the Fieldings all plan to go, but Annelisa cries off, claiming to be too upset by her forced marriage to go. However, she has a plan to sneak off to the ball in disguise, lose her virginity to Nikolai, and return home before anyone discovers she is gone. Things go to plan, but what Annelisa isn't betting on is the aftermath - she has duped a very intelligent man in the Count and he will not rest until he finds out what really happened that night. And when he does, he won't let it rest...
My verdict? A delicious read. It is a historical (set in the Victorian period), so the language, the social airs and graces, etcetera are what you'd expect of the time. The sexual language and acts aren't at all graphic either - this is clearly a well-researched story and one that I enjoyed. The main characters are fun, believable and likeable, and I'd recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different.