Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reckless by Amanda Quick ****

Reckless was picked up at the local library sale, which this year I realized is mostly the dregs and leftovers of donated books, probably donated back every year, and not the overstock of the actual library. When I chose it, I had only read one other Amanda Quick - since then I read the AAR Top 100 of 2007 pick, Ravished, and enjoyed it quite a lot.

I enjoyed this one as well. Phoebe Layton, youngest daughter of an earl, is an imaginative and daring young woman who harbors a strong Arthurian-legend streak - she likes to believe there are indeed knights-errant out there to help damsels in distress. Of course, she manages to put herself in distress so often, she should have realized the lack of available knights.

Her last suitor, Neil Braxton, was apparently searching the South Seas for enough treasure to win her hand when he was murdered by a pirate. The token she gave him before he left, a book of medieval romance, has returned to England, possibly in the possession of that very pirate - and Phoebe sets off on a quest to find the book and unmask the murderer. It's not that she actually loved Neil - indeed, she was glad he was gone, because she didn't love him and has no intention of marrying until she finds true love.

She cloaks herself in disguise as The Veiled Lady and spends 2 months attempting to hire the services of Gabriel as the knight-errant to help her on the quest for the pirate. Gabriel has just returned from an 8-year odyssey to the South Seas himself, having gone after being financially ruined by Phoebe's father when Gabriel attempted to rescue Phoebe's older sister from an arranged marriage she dreaded. It seems Gabriel, like Phoebe, once harbored that same romantic Arthurian streak, which was squashed and ended forever after this ill-advised event. Meredith, as it turns out, was just having pre-wedding jitters, married the arranged fellow and is now happy as a clam with him and their 3 children - no one else in the family actually has Phoebe's romantic, reckless streak.

Gabriel wants revenge against the family for forcing him to leave the country, and when he realizes it's the younger daughter who is seeking his services, decides to ruin her. Of course, he's also drawn to her because of her daring and courage. And he does not reveal to her that he is the owner of the book of her quest - he took it from Neil's cabin after forcing the fellow to walk the plank.

It seems the two are each keeping lots of secrets from the other: Gabriel is also the anonymous author of a popular new book. Phoebe knows this because she is secretly the publisher and editor of the book - she has become the silent but controlling financial partner of a publisher because it's too risky for a woman, especially of Society, to be in trade.

All of Gabriel's attempts to manage Phoebe end in disaster as Phoebe will not be managed or dictated to (Isn't that just like a man! Will he never learn?), and no one has ever been able to do so. When her father and brother approach him in a club - first to challenge him, then to merely warn him - he starts to understand their motivation: they love her and want to protect her, mostly from herself! And then he begins to realize he is also falling in love with her, which will negate all efforts to affect revenge.

It's a fun tale, and Phoebe's daring and outrageous actions never seem to come across as Too Stupid To Live - mostly they're hare-brained schemes or Lucy Ricardo-esque situations. When she ties the sheets together to escape her Night In Hell, she is actually rescuing herself from a dangerous situation. And her knight-errant, Gabriel, through clever story-telling, always manages to be there to rescue his lady in distress.

4 stars

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