Source: Net Galley
Miss Charlotte Spencer wants to become a woman of the world without experiencing the messy situations the condition normally entails. But nothing works quite the way she planned. She can’t even curse properly—except when she stumbles blindly into her secret crush, Adrian Rohan, cub of the devilish Marquess of Haverstoke (hero of Ruthless, the first volume in Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan series).
Fortunately for Charlotte, contrariness is bred to the Rohans’ bones. Being too tall, too strong-minded and too original for Society’s taste merely adds to Charlotte allure. Far from viewing her as an “antidote” in the sense of 19th century slant—an unattractive spinster firmly on the shelf—Adrian sees her as the true antidote to his growing boredom with the rakish life style. He fights the impulse to claim her, ably assisted by his suave older cousin, the Comte de Giverney. But when Charlotte’s quest for second-hand sensation takes her into one of the unsafe areas of a Heavenly Host orgy, Adrian rushes to her rescue. Sort of. Let’s just say Charlotte’s in for an education of the most sensual kind.
Like all of Ms. Stuart’s heroes, Adrian qualifies as mad, bad and dangerous to know—though not necessarily for the reason you might suspect. He does debauchery with the best (or worst) of them. He’s beautiful, demanding, sarcastic and high-handed. But he isn’t an all-out rotter. He can’t be. Ms. Stuart doesn’t cheat on her previous books’ endings. His father, the marquess, earned his happily ever after, and Ms. Stuart follows the HEA to its inevitable conclusion: a happy, stable home life for his children. This smoothes Adrian’s hard edges and changes the central romantic question from “Will he give in?” to “Will she?” Most of the obstacles arise from Charlotte’s actions and choices, which helps distinguish this entry from books one and three of the House of Rohan entries.
As does the theme. Most of Ms. Stuart’s books revolve around the themes of predation and redemption. Here the story hinges on the characters’ sense of duty, most often expressed in protectiveness. The admirable characters rush to each other’s rescue, heedless of image or their own self-interest, and invariably wind up butting heads as a result. It’s a wickedly devious plot device, complicating their lives far more effectively than any villain ever could.
Which isn’t to say Reckless fails to deliver ample servings of the tension, wit, lush writing and, yes, sex Ms. Stuart’s fans expect and crave. There’s danger, a high-tension secondary romance and a charmingly roguish matchmaker. Recurring characters, suitably adjusted for their respective experiences, play out the roles sketched for them in Ruthless, but as with Devil’s Cub (Georgette Heyer’s romance about the son of a notorious rake and a cit’s daughter) you don’t need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy the second.
Or, in the case of this trilogy, eagerly anticipate the third.
Verdict: Two thumbs up.