2002 reissue of 1993 release, European Historical Romance (Georgian England)
Signet, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451206444 Part of a series
Jo Beverley's classic Malloren series is one that I’m slowly working my way through...completely out of order. My Lady Notorious, the first in the series, is a road romance set in a delightful time period in which the author excels featuring two ladies in distress and the soldier who comes to the rescue. What more could a reader ask for?
Chastity Ware and her sister Verity are in a bit of trouble, the source of which stems from their father (they are a dysfunctional family, to say the least). Lady Chastity refused to marry the scheming, insignificant man her father chose for her and, as a result, she is publicly humiliated by her sire and others when her hair is shorn, her lovely gowns taken, and she is banished to a house on the family’s estate as punishment. However, when her sister and newborn nephew are threatened, she puts her own troubles aside to help them. To do this, she dons her brother’s clothes and attempts to become a highwayman. Unfortunately, she picks a carriage carrying Cyn Malloren to rob.
After convalescing from illness with his sister, Cyn Malloren is traveling back to London to return to military duty – if he can escape the all-seeing eye that is his brother Rothgar. On his way there, his carriage is taken by two very young and obviously inexperienced highwaymen and he decides to go along for the ride even though he could easily get himself out of the situation. He’s even more intrigued when he realizes that his young kidnapper is a woman. Perversely, and to his great entertainment, he antagonizes Chastity, known to him as Charles, while at the same time deciding to help her and her sister in their dilemma.
Throughout their journey, Chastity struggles to keep her identity as the Infamous Chastity Ware from Cyn since she fears his reaction and scorn if he were to discover her secret. Confused by his constant sexual innuendos - after all, she thinks he thinks she is a boy - she struggles to fight the attraction she feels for him because even if her identity came to light, she could have no relationship with him due to the scandal attached to her name.
Chastity is a strong heroine – not feisty, but a little stubborn. She hangs on to her secret longer than necessary, though it’s out of shame and fear and her goal is to protect her sister and nephew. She longs to be feminine again and to shed her boyish guise. Cyn, despite the fact that he is a soldier and used to action, is more of a beta hero. His humor makes him desirable and adds to the strong sexual tension between the pair. However, my main quibble here is that it seems like Rothgar comes in and steals his thunder – Rothgar comes up with the solutions and serves up the justice, not Cyn, who should be the hero. I couldn’t help but feel that Cyn was just Rothgar’s poor, overshadowed little brother.
If you’re in need of a great historical romance with attention to the details of the period and solid characters, then this is one I strongly recommend. I’ve been quite pleased with the men of the Malloren family – now I have to go find the other stories.
-- Heather Brooks
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