Saturday, March 14, 2009
Esme Brentmore doesn't care that revenge isn't a suitable job for a woman. She's determined to avenge the murder of her beloved father, an enigmatic English aristocrat who lived in self-imposed exile. Honor demands that Esme let nothing and nobody stand in her way. That includes the handsome wastrel who's become entangled in her life, whose charm does not make up for his lazy and irresponsible character.
Having gambled away his entire family fortune, Varian St. George, Lord Edenmont, now lives by his wits and winning ways. A man who has always taken the path of least resistance---preferably in soft beds with willing women---he does not want to become embroiled in a mad quest with a hot-tempered and heavily armed redhead.
But forced to travel together through an exotic land, the mismatched pair soon discovers that friction can produce some very dangerous sparks...
My first book by this author, Loretta Chase.
I read it primarily because this is the first in her "Scoundrel" series. On various romance sites on the Internet, I've read that the third book in this series, Lord of Scoundrels, is one of the best romances out there. So, being the methodical type, I began with book one in the series. It is the story of whether an irresponsible and dissolute cad can redeem himself when faced with the courage and passion of the obstinate and tenacious young woman that has turned his once cushy and lazy world upside down.
Esme is not your typical Regency heroine - not at all. Born to a high born Englishman turned spy who is exiled from England, Esme has grown up as a little warrior in her native country of Albania. Used to fending off enemies and bullets and living on her wits, she passes herself off as a young boy when she needs to. Though she is beautiful, often she hides herself up so no one can tell except for those green eyes of hers. Varian St. George, Lord Edenmont is not your typical Regency hero either. Penniless, he has spent his entire family's fortune. His estate back in England has gone to ruin and he is virtually exiled, since if he returns to England, he'll be jailed for his unpaid debts. Instead he sponges off fellow aristocrats abroad who enjoy his charming personality and good looks. A wastrel in almost every sense of the word, he haphazardly meets Esme and they must travel together to find her young cousin, Percival, who has been kidnapped. Percival is 12 years old and an endearing lad, I really liked him!
All this is set in the country of Albania, which I knew almost nothing about before reading this (I still don't know much.) Albania is near Italy across the Adriatic Sea, it's in Europe, but more Moslem than European. This is also the same area where Lord Byron traveled to and wrote about in his epic poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
Varian is sort of a Childe Harold himself. It's implied that he may have been Byron's inspiration. Mistaking Esme for a young girl, Varian is oddly attracted to her, and being the lascivious cad that he is, his conscience does not exactly stop him from wanting her even though he believes she's too young. An odd combination that I found a bit distasteful. It didn't exactly endear him to me. To be honest, I had trouble feeling any empathy for him for most of the book, and didn't really care all that much for him. I found Esme's father, The Lion, much more appealing (must be that red hair of his), though we see little of him. I sort of wondered who it was supposed to be on the book cover - the Lion or Varian? He doesn't look like either one's description (I hate it when the book cover model is nothing like the actual written person is supposed to look like.)
Although, we hear much about Varian's past indiscretions, he's now at a crossroads in which he's realizing he's going to have to face up to his responsiblities. He really has no choice. But, is it because he's falling for Esme and wants to earn her admiration and love, or is he just finally getting old and "growing up?" Can he actually mend his ways from the past 10 years destruction and fix all the damage he's created? A tall order and I was sceptical. But, by the end of the book, Varian had redeemed himself in my eyes and I was rooting for him. I liked the way we see his tranformation from ne'er do well to an honorable English lord.
Due to certain circumstances, the two are forced to marry, although not reluctantly. They can't deny their passion for one another, though it didn't sizzle off the pages. I thought they were just too unlikely a couple, and I didn't buy the way Varian was so taken by this slim little whisp of a girl who barely looked like she was 12 years old. Was it because she was so brave and resourceful and it was her aura he liked? I think that was probably it. (I hate to think it's the other reason!) Once married, they must return to England where she can meet her paternal grandmother and he to pick up the pieces of his crumbling estate and pay off the sizeable debt awaiting him. There the story wraps up with an exciting ending and all ends well.
I can't say I was really thrilled with this book. It took me almost a week to read it, and it wasn't that long. The first two thirds of the book when it takes place in Albania dragged on and on, I felt like I too was travelling through the dirt and mud forever. By the time they all got to England it was like a breath of much needed fresh air - finally! The last third's pace picked up and suddenly I was sailing again! All the loose strings are taken care of and we are led to believe that Varian and Esme will live happily ever after. I hope so at least. With her indominable strength and personality, I think she'll keep him in line for a long time!
I liked this author's style of writing, even though this plotline was a bit hard to follow while it took place in Albania with the various who's who of foreign villains and their minions. In any case, I anticipate reading through her backlist!