Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I've Read This Week Part I

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

A Devilish Dilemma by Judith A. Lansdowne -- Regency Romance

Miss Minerva Potts is a singularly unremarkable young lady but that doesn't mean she has to put up with her future husband burying her in the country while he carouses in London. So Mina calls off the engagement with Lord Whithall and runs out of a party and into the streets where she's rescued by a handsome, charming young gentleman, the Devil's Delight himself, the Earl of Rossland. Chadwick Brumfield has the worst reputation in London. He's known as the Devil's Delight because everything he does is sure to please the devil. Rossland has been accused of all manner of perfidy such as being a rake, a libertine and even murdering his own father, brother and young nephew. There are few who stand behind him but Chad doesn't mind for the rumors distract from his real purpose: to seek out his nephew whom Chad believes has been kidnapped. Chad thinks Mina is the perfect choice to aid him in his quest for who would suspect such a biddable young girl to be involved in such intrigue? The more Mina speaks with Chad, the more certain she is that his reputation is based solely on the gossip of the ton. Even her formidable, high stickler Aunt Letitia doesn't believe half of what she hears. She's known Chad since he was in leading strings and while he's always been mischievous, he has a big heart. Chad's interest in Mina  fuels the gossip mill again and encourages other gentlemen to try for Mina's hand. She's determined to marry for comfort, convenience and prestige. She'll never lose her heart again. Chad's big heart gets him into more than one scrape but Mina finds she's game for anything, perhaps even another chance at love. As he uncovers the truth about his family, he discovers his young nephew is a pawn in a much larger plot. Chad would do anything for his family, even lay down his life.

This story is sort of a hybrid of a traditional Regency and a normal Regency romance. There's danger, drama, mystery, heartache, romance and moments of comedy. The suspenseful plot kept me reading way too late. Even though some of the story is told from the villains' points-of-view, I couldn't wait to see how it would all turn out. I was pleasantly surprised that the author stayed away from over-used plot tropes and came up with something far better. She shows a different side to Regency era women. I loved the final confrontation sequence. I also liked the comedic bits thrown in to lighten the story. The dog, Wicky, is more adorable than the boy who I found annoying. I especially loved Chad's sense of humor and the jokes shared with Mina.

The story also deals with darker elements of Regency life. There's a fair amount of violence in this novel and mentions of violence and murder. The hero has been to war and nearly died of his wounds. There's a character who is in a child-like state due to terrible tragedies in their life. There's also a scene in a brothel (nothing of the usual sort happens) where a villain likes underage girls.

The romance itself is clean. There are a couple of sweet kisses but the hero and heroine are never allowed to be alone alone. They're allowed to be alone together in a room with chaperones but never on their own which is correct according to the rules of the day. I like the way the romance develops because of the situations the characters are in and Mina's Aunt Letty caring for her reputation. The characters get to truly know each other. Mina discovers the man beneath the terrible rumors and falls in love with that man. I can easily see the reader doing so as well because I nearly lost my heart to him.  Even Aunt Letty has a soft spot for him. (I infer that she may have been in love with his father in her younger days.) Mina grows a lot and that allows the romance to develop in a reasonable manner. At first she's merely pretty and charmingly innocent but she comes to know herself and her own heart. She turns into someone perfectly compatible with Chad. As they come together to save Chad's nephew, they get to know each other and understand each other.

This is my first full-length novel by Judith Lansdowne and I enjoyed it very much. She's very skilled at creating a Regency world that actually existed and making memorable characters who share a meeting of the minds.

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