A Dangerous Man
by Connie Brockway, historical (1996)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-22198-6
Hart Moreland doesn't want the American upstart Mercy Coltrane in his life, his parties, or even in England. She knows a deep and dark secret of his: six years ago, Hart was a mercenary gunslinger in America, hiring out his skills for money. He worked for her father, among many other employers, and in fact saved her when she was held at gunpoint once upon a time. Mercy's brother has vanished into the slums of London and she is determined to look for him. Top on her list of to-do things is to enlist Hart to her cause. Hart, however, wants only to be left alone. The current Earl of Perth also wishes to protect the reputation of his family so that his sisters can marry well. When Mercy appears in his life, he is very close to seeing a sister marry the Duke of Acton. He cannot let Mercy spoil this impending nuptial by letting the Ton know of Hart's secret past as a gunslinger.
A Dangerous Man is an uneven book. It starts off in an unengaging manner - Hart is unnecessarily brusque and cold while Mercy tries too hard to conform to the ways of the Ton. These two characters seem to be antagonistic for the sake of conflict. Only during the middle of the story when Merry finally snaps and fires a few bullets - literally - into the air does the fun finally kicks in. Mercy becomes less a familiar and stereotypical feitsy American sassyball in England and more like a unique character in her own right. Hart stops acting as if he has a telephone pole up a sensitive nether orifice and becomes a more interesting hero as a result. But even then, the transparent and caricaturish villain and the stereotypical portrayal of the Ton (all of them are selfish and rude snobs, including members of Hart's own family) don't help matters much. The tone of this book is dark and while I find the open-ended fate of Merry's brother realistic and apt, other readers may not be pleased with the lack of closure in that area. But the dark tone of A Dangerous Man feels more cartoonish than genuine, thanks to the cartoon villain and the unpleasant secondary cast - all of them feel like caricatures.
As one of the weakest books by this author, A Dangerous Man is probably not the best book to start with if you are new to this author. Mercy and Hart take too long to become interesting and even then, they are stuck in a very average story. The last few chapters resonate with emotional poignancy, but why settle for a few chapters when there are better books by this author that offer the same type of emotional resonance for almost the entire book?
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