Monday 18 February 2013

#CBR5 Book 17. "One Night in London" by Caroline Linden

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

First of all, I have no idea what the heck is going on with the cover of this one. God knows what she's actually doing, my husband has several theories, but all of them pretty much qualify in the NSFW category, so we'll just leave it at that. Covers like these make me so very happy that I have an e-reader, because while I'm really not at all ashamed to admit that I enjoy romance novels, and read a lot of them, this is just not a cover I would want to display while on public transport on my way to work and back every day.

Lord Edward de Lacey is second of the Duke of Durham's three sons. On the Duke's deathbed, he confesses to Edward, and his youngest son, Gerard (the heir to the title is a wastrel and a rake who apparently had a massive falling out with his dad, and doesn't show up in time for the passing of his father) that he has a rather inconvenient secret he's been keeping. In his youth, before he became a Duke, he married a woman in secret, and never really made sure the marriage was dissolved or checked whether said woman was dead before he married his sons' mother. He's been receiving threatening notes that suggest someone knows about this, and the three young lords will need to figure out what actually happened, or their entire inheritance is at stake.

Gerard, the soldier, and apparently also the hot-headed one, goes off to try to track down the blackmailer. Charles, the rakish older one appears completely unbothered by the fact that he may not be a Duke after all, but fairly destitute with a scandal attached to the family name. Edward, who was always the calm and sensible one, who's been running the family estates and business for years, decides that the best way to solve things is to hire a clever solicitor, and prove their claims in court. If the Courts award Charles the title, no later proof of illegitimacy will be able to strip them of their inheritance.

Lady Francesca Gordon is a young widow who needs to hire a solicitor to gain custody over her niece. When her sister, and later brother-in-law died in short succession, no will was written to grant her legal custody over the girl. Francesca is convinced that the girl's stepmother is taking advantage of the girl's inheritance to support herself, her useless artist brother and the twins she bore shortly after the death of Lady Gordon's brother-in-law. Most of the men she talks to, refuses to take the case. She has finally succeeded in convincing one, when he rushes off and drops her like a hot potato, because Edward de Lacey wants to hire him instead. Francesca is furious, and shows up on Lord Edward's doorstep to tell him exactly what she thinks of his underhanded tactics. He's rather baffled by her impertinence, and makes her realise that he had no idea he had "stolen" her solicitor away from her.

Because Edward foolishly confessed the truth about his father's indiscretions to his fiancee, he in short order finds himself with a dissolved betrothal and the gossip rags speculating wildly about the "Durham Dilemma". Francesca approaches him with a deal - she will help him get a retraction printed, if he'll agree to help her find an attorney to take her case, and win her niece back. Edward wants the gossip killed as quickly as possible, and the meddlesome Lady Gordon out of his hair as well, so he agrees. Of course, once he spends more time in her company, he discovers that her case to locate and win custody of her niece is an easy one, and he grows more and more attracted to her every time they meet.

This book had the refreshing change of a heroine who is not a blushing innocent, but rather a widow. And not a widow with a miserable first marriage either, but a kindly husband who she misses greatly. She's actually the more aggressive of the two in the relationship, initiating the first kiss and generally doing her fair share of heavy lifting when it came to the seducing. That doesn't happen too often. It also meant that you don't have to have some sort of tedious variation on the inevitable deflowering scene, but instead two people who have both had sex before, and know that they enjoy it.

I liked that the couple genuinely seemed to like spending time with each other, and after the initial misunderstanding and slightly wrongful first impressions they had of each other, they discovered that they worked very well together in trying to locate Francesca's missing niece. The attraction between them is rather sudden, but the actual development of the relationship is given more time, and unlike in some romances, both characters also reflect on how suddenly they seem to be falling for each other.

Caroline Linden is a new author to me, but I'd seen her favourably reviewed in a few places, and Mrs. Julien read this entire trilogy last year, which suggested that it couldn't be all bad. This book sets up the main arc of the trilogy, each featuring one of the de Lacey sons, and I'm assuming that the complications surrounding the impending scandal and the blackmail and securing of the Ducal title will not be sorted out until the final book - set to feature Charlie, the dissolute rake one. As I enjoyed this one rather a lot, and have already bought all three books, I will proceed with reading about the youngest, hot-head brother next.

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