donderdag 6 januari 2011

Annette Blair – A Christmas baby

A book in the Rogue's Club series, published in 2004

A christmas baby

A merry gentleman
Rocking a cradle is no diversion for a rogue – but the new earl of Blackburne has no choice. Ashford Blackburne cannot clear his debts or save his family’s estates unless he comes into his inheritance, and his grandfather’s will makes it perfectly clear that he must marry and produce an heir by year’s end – or forfeit a fortune. His choice of bride is most unconventional: Larkin McAdams is an innkeeper’s daughter!

And his sweet lady
Though her clothes are rough, a tender heart beats beneath. Lark has hidden her fondness for Ash for many years, thinking him above her. But now she must say yes – the Earl of Blackburne won her fair and square in a card game with her father. Ash has promised to educate her well and turn her into a lady fit for his grand house. Yet as Christmas draws near, Lark will teach the earl some lessons of her own … in the ways of love …

Jilted for the altar, again, Ashford Blackburne and his two friends seek solace in their favourite pub. Getting as drunk as humanly possible to forget what happened (or not happened). Ash has to get married and father a baby, or he will be disinherited by his grandfather. He had bought an actress to be his wife, but she just took his money and disappeared. No woman of noble birth would want to tie herself to a rogue like him. Then he gets the brilliant notion to buy the pub to support himself. But the pub owner doesn’t want to sell, he will gamble for it instead. If Ash wins, he gets the pub. If Ash looses, he looses 1.000 gold guineas, but gain the pub owner’s daughter in marriage as a consolation price! Ash agrees, as he has always had the devil’s own luck with cards. And of course, he is stone cold drunk.
Larking is hiding on the stairs behind Ash, dreaming of him as she has done since she was a little girl of 11. He was kind to her then, and she has never forgotten that. But she knows he is so far above her station, even when he was just a soldier fighting Bonaparte. And now her father is trying to get rid of her by marrying her of to Ash. It could be a dream come true … And she could help her nephew Micah as well! So when Ash is about to win, no matter how much her father cheats, Lark decides to help out a bit by trading some cards …
And so, at gunpoint, Lark and Ash are married. Ash doesn’t know what happens, this dirty smelling person is a woman? And he really has to take her with him? The marriage is real, and they both have no choice in the matter. But after making her take a bath (which is a real fight between them), Ash is flabbergasted! His wife is a beautiful young woman after all. When he tries to demand his husband rights, she shoots him. She will have none of that thank you very much. After what happened to her sister, she is determined no man will do that to her, ever! So Ash has his fair share of wooing to do. He really needs that heir!
Then Micah appears on their doorstep, a little boy of 7 years old, very clearly abused and not speaking. He doesn’t remember his Auntie, but both Lark and Ash are trying to make him feel at home and safe. Ash promises to raise him as his own nephew.
Just when things are progressing, another surprise arrives. Apparently, the first woman who jilted Ash, was pregnant when she married another, and now she has died and their daughter is send to him. Only not directly, she has survived on her own on the streets of London for quit some time, so she is a real hellion, and wants to be called Brian. Just like Lark, she pretended to be a boy to keep safer.
So now they have two children to raise and keep safe.
Everything between Lark and Ash is going well though, and Lark even finds out she likes “doing the matrimonial” and they are eagerly trying to create a baby of their own. Lark and the children have to follow lessons, reading, writing, numbers and behaviour. So they will be able to meet society at last.

At Christmas, there is a huge house party, were all the rogues and their families out of the previous rogue books make an appearance. The number of children they all have is staggering! But it sounded like a lot of fun and happiness.

I really loved this book! Lark sure knows what she wants, and being an innocent she still makes it plain what she will and will not do. I loved the scene in the attic, where she found the clothes and most important, the shoes. Having done without most of her life, she loves wearing all those beautiful colors. And Ash finally gets to know that having a wife and a family is what he wanted after all. The escapades Lark and the children are getting into, are great.
High time I (re)read all those rogue books! E-bay, here I come again …

8,5 stars

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