Genre: historical romance
Cover I like it.
Neville Roscoe, notorious and enigmatic, lives resolutely outside society, bound only by his code of honour - until challenged by his desire for the one woman he cannot have.
Miranda Clifford is a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability - until tempted by a passion beyond her power to deny.
Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore . . . or keep.
It has been a long time ago, since Stephanie Laurens wrote a stand alone novel. Of course, it is tied into the series, some of the previous the characters do appear in this one, as Roscoe did in their stories. But I enjoyed reading his story, as he intrigued me before. The last years, all of her books kind of used the same storyline. The hero decides the heroine is the wife for him, and sets out to seduce her, in order to get her to think about marrying him. This book was a nice change from that line of action, and I really liked and appreciated that. Stephanie Laurens has proven again why she stays on my autobuy list, as I was getting tired. Okay, the book itself!
Miranda Clifford is minor gentry, and with her sister and brother raised by their two aunts, who are very strict and very careful of propriety. Respectability is their only aim. Miranda’s mother married below her station, as her grandfather made a fortune with his mill. Which means trade! And then they inconveniently gotten themselves killed in a carriage accident. Her older sister ran off with a gypsy at age 16, to return deathly ill two years later, and die. Her one remaining aunt has only gotten more strict after that.
Miranda is now 29, and has been looking after her younger brother almost all of her life, protecting him from the brunt of her aunts displeasure and lectures. But now Roderick is 23, and ready to be independent of her apron strings. He has grown up as a capable young man, and she is proud of him. But he has been sneaking out of the house lately, through the garden gate, and she just wants to know what he is up to. So, she follows him. To a house nearby, where he enters through the garden doors. A house she knows belongs to Neville Roscoe, the gambling king of London. What can Roderick be up to in that house of sin? Gambling? An orgy? She just has to know, so she follows him inside, in the supposition that she can demand Roderick to take her home if something bad is happening there.
To her dismay, she is captured by Roscoe himself. And he invites her to witness what is happening at his house, in his private library. Miranda agrees, and is lead to the gallery, where she can hear everything. Apparently, Roscoe and some of his friends, including Roderick, are doing charity, helping the poor by educating them and finding them jobs and apprenticeships. Miranda is very proud of his brother, for using his fortune to help those in need. And she knows she owes Roscoe an apology, something that is not easy for her. And Roscoe is wondering why he acted as he did, why he let Miranda stay in his house. But he likes this brazen female, she is so different from the females he interacts with usually. And somehow, he wants her opinion of him to be a good one. Of course he has a file on Roderick, and he will find out all he can about her as well.
But a few nights later, Roderick does not come home after his meeting at Roscoe’s. Miranda is worried sick, as he promised he would be there to have dinner with her suitor. Her aunt does not want her to call the police, think of the scandal! But Miranda does not care, she wants her brother home safe! So she goes to Roscoe, and asks for his help. Which he gives at once, Roderick is one of his friends, and he has to defend his reputation of taking care what is his. So he sends out his bodyguards and other employees to find out what they can. Surely someone must have seen something last night. And if not, he knows one of the other underworld figures of London, one who deals in information. He will help, if only to have Roscoe owe him a favor. Miranda is frantic with worry, and stays at Roscoe’s as long as she can. She needs to know what has happened. Roscoe promises to keep her in the loop, but that is not enough. She has to be there as well, and to go with him when word arrives. When he refuses to take her to the docks with him, she just follows in a hackney, dressed in her brother’s clothes. Roscoe is furious when he discover her in the seedy bar, but he does understand her concern, and knows better than to try to leave her behind the next time.
When they find out that the kidnappers have taken Roderick out of town in a carriage, three days later, they set out together to follow their trail, and get Roderick back. If they wanted to kill him, they would already have done so. With Miranda dressed as a widow, and Roscoe escorting her as a family friend, they get lots of information, a man alone, or Roscoe with his bodyguards would not have gotten so easily. Unfortunately, they loose a lot of time inquiring after their prey, and don’t really catch up with them. For days they travel together, getting to know each other, but Roscoe never tells Miranda the truth about himself. And the attraction between them is growing. Of course, there can never be anything between them, a not so young miss and a gambling king, Miranda would be ruined if she was caught in his company.
After rescuing Roderick, who has a broken foot, collarbone and a fever, there is only one safe option for them: to go to his ancestral home. And there Miranda finds out who he used to be:
Lord Julian Roscoe Neville Delbraith, second son of the Duke of Ridgware. His family is very happy to see him again, they did not expect them. The preparations for his youngest sister’s marriage are in full swing, and all the family is there. They are grateful for Miranda to bring him home to them, and Miranda quickly grows fond of them all.
But why did he give up his name, his status, to become Roscoe? And, will he be able to convert back to Lord Julian?
After Roderick heals enough to be able to journey home, and the man who kidnapped him have been imprisoned, they still have a mystery to solve: who wants Roderick dead, and why?
I absolutely loved this book, the story was refreshing, and I liked both Julian and Miranda, and Roderick as well. The villain, well, he really is honourless and evil, and I did have some suspicions. The ending, that was plain fun, with Miranda taking charge as she did. Really loved it, and did not see that coming. Very unusual. So, what are you waiting for, if you like historical romance, go read it!
Stephanie Laurens does not have a very easy to read writing voice. She uses very long sentences, big words (I don’t know them all!) and lots and lots of inner dialogue. The love scenes are hot though, and fairly detailed, so if you like smexy scenes, you won’t be disappointed. This book has it all, great characters, a good story, suspense, a real villain and a happy and surprising ending. I do like mature heroines in a book instead of 17 year young debutantes.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian