by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80928-1
When Griff Knighton first sees Rosalind Laverick, he is caught red-handed by her searching through her father's desk. And she, she is wearing a chemise that leaves little to his imagination, and she is pointing an old sword at him.
Welcome to Sabrina Jeffries' A Dangerous Love, a delightful romp where Shakespearean quotes is mercilessly used as a means of seduction and war. It's a story that hinges on a big secret on the hero's part, but the author never makes the heroine the fool for it. She suspects, he bluffs, but dang if the sexual tension between them can't be cut with a knife.
Griff Knighton wants his late parents' marriage certificate. With it, he can prove his legitimacy, get involved in a trade delegation to China, and make Knighton Trading so powerful that East India can choke in envy. The respectability that comes along will only be icing on the cake.
Rosalind's father has the certificate. It's a result of some love gone awry thing that may have inspired Shakespeare in some of his more melodramatic plays. Now, he offers reparation by offering it to Griff, provided he marries one of the three Swanlea daughters and sees to the other two's future.
But Griff says, "Uh-uh, no way am I going to be blackmailed by the scum who wronged my parents, I'll just snake in and steal the cert from under their noses!"
So he asks his man-of-affairs Daniel to pose as he, and he the man-of-affairs. Too bad Rosalind suspects something and sticks to him day and night, her scowl indicating that Mister, I'm Watching You. Too bad she never counted on the danger of sticking too close to a very handsome man who is mad in lust with her plump, Ruebenesque curves. Then there are those plums...
Rosalind and "Griffin Brennan" (Griff's new name) spar very well, and their attraction only fuel some witty and funny repartees. Both really don't know how to handle this attraction between them at all. She blusters and pushes her chest forward as she tries to stand up to him, but er, she only gets the wrong sort of reaction from him when she does just that. He wants her to shut up and leave him to his snooping, but dang if he doesn't start fantasizing about that mouth and many creative ways to shut her up, yes indeed.
I enjoyed A Dangerous Love - it is a light-hearted romp, yet it manages to be substantial in the sense that it makes romance an art of verbal banters, it has sexual tension and red-hot consummation, and it drives home issues on family and trust without making martyrs out of everyone.
But I have a few quibbles though. As the story moves into its last quarter, the two main characters start acting odd. I don't blame Rosalind: she's bewildered as much as confused. But Griff? Come on, man, he starts out rakish and a fun scoundrel, but by the epilogue he is close to becoming a dour, humor-free Colonel Von Trapp clone. I don't think I like this Griff Knighton. I want Griff Brennan back. Rosalind does something way out of character for her intelligence during the Grand Finale, but maybe because she's overwrought.
If I'm honest, I find Daniel Brennan, the man with a past, more interesting that the sourpuss millionaire this Griff Knighton turns out to be. I want his story.
One more quibble: I'm afraid I really don't get the Swansea Spinsters concept. I mean, if these ladies can get a label like that, that means people must have known about them. So why exactly are they, or rather, the youngest sister a spinster? Juliet, with her blame-me-happy and passive personality, sounds like the typical Miss every silly romance nobleman wants to marry. Maybe it's the lack of dowry, but still, I find it odd that these ladies are, on one hand, famous enough to be labeled Swanlea Spinsters, yet on the other hand they are supposed to be an oddity, an unmarriageable one at that.
Minor, pesky details from a reader who's been told more often than once she's too fussy for her own good, however. ADL is fun. What more can I ask for? Okay, maybe Daniel's story.
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