Sunday, January 16, 2011

What A Rogue Desires by Caroline Linden *****

I love a Besotted Hero!! And finally, a book in the series that makes me glad I glommed it.

This particular hero is the Evil Twin from What A Gentleman Wants, David Reece. In that book, he is the very epitome of a rake, spending his fortune on debauchery and drunkeness, leading his friends astray at every turn, and ending up being tended by a virtuous vicar's widow in a small town when his carriage is overturned during a race and his leg is severely broken. Even then, when he seems to be on the verge of a Come To Jesus moment, he -well, what is the opposite of repents? and plays a dastardly joke on the widow and his identical twin, the Duke of Exeter. Of course, in Romancelandia, all is well and the duke and the widow have a HEA.

In this one, the Come To Jesus moment revisits him, and he is tasked with keeping the family business going (you know, whatever it is dukes have to do) while his brother and new wife tour the Continent on their honeymoon. But Linden doesn't reform David quickly - he is sorely tested in the first days when his horse goes lame, delaying his return to London and putting him in harm's way. The public transport he is forced to take is robbed, and the signet ring his brother had made for him stolen. The ring is a sort of talisman for him, the symbol of his adulthood and the responsibilities he knows he should shoulder, and he does everything he can to get it back.

The first order of business is to grab the thief, which in this case turns out to be our lovely heroine, Vivian. Linden builds a credible background for her as the half-Irish orphan raised as a Dickensian pickpocket, now in the company of highwaymen. On impulse, David virtually kidnaps her and holds her captive, trying to bully the information about his ring out of her.

This is where the beauty of the story unfolds - he has finally met his match, which isn't so uncommon a theme in romance. What makes it unique is the journey - and this is where authors can shine or can follow the lemmings into the sea. Linden shines in creating a believable relationship - a woman wary of the power David holds, both physically and as a "gentleman" of the ton; a man determined to show everyone he can be as responsible as his brother, but who fails and fails in this at every turn. She has them slowly (well, not really that slowly but at least not overnight!) come to know each other as human beings, and during this process David falls head over heels in love, becoming ever the besotted hero. The small things that bring joy to Vivian become important to him and he wants nothing more to continue to bring her joy.

Even the final conflict works very well into the story - it comes from moments laid out earlier in the book, even in the previous book, that fall into place. I didn't feel "where did that come from?" when it happened, neither did I feel "I saw that one coming 5 miles away".

I finished this at 3 am this morning, big old grin on my face but too tired to jump up and write a review. Now here it is. 5 stars!

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