by Deborah Simmons, historical (2010)
Harlequin Historical, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-373-29580-7
Actually, the heroine Hero Ingram - yes, her name is Hero - is the one who initiated the quest in question, so The Gentleman's Quest is actually not the most accurate title for this book. Still, it could be worse, because the tagline of this book is Brooding Gentleman, Defiant Damsel. That one could have easily been the title of this book.
The Gentleman's Quest takes off a short while after The Dark Viscount, but it can stand alone pretty well. Christopher "Kit" Marchant, our hero, is currently feeling a bit blue over the fact that his refusal to believe his sister in the previous book nearly caused her death. In this story, he comes across an unexpected visitor to his home Oakfield Manor, our heroine Hero.
Hero, from all appearances a poor niece of the eccentric recluse Augustus Raven, has been trained by her uncle to become an efficient procurer of the rare books on her uncle's wish list. Hero's objective in this trip is the book that caused so many problems in the previous story, a book containing forbidden Druid rites that was written by Ambrose Mallory. Kit believes that the book had been destroyed during the dramatic final moments of the previous story, but Hero is convinced that another copy of that book exists somewhere. Not wanting to see another woman become a victim to evil Druids, Kit feels compelled to accompany Hero as she dashes across the countryside, hoping to keep her safe until she's back in her uncle's place.
As the two of them follow a trail of clues leading to the possible whereabouts of this book, they encounter various people who clearly do not want them to succeed. Hope suspects that these men are agents of other book-obsessed collectors not wanting to see Ambrose Mallory's book fall into the hands of Augustus Raven. Kit isn't so sure.
The Gentleman's Quest does not have the strongest romance around, so no, I'm afraid the pattern of the author's last few books hasn't been broken yet. In this one, our two main characters are very efficient - yes, Hero is very efficient and very good in solving problems and getting herself out of trouble - but the thing is, they tend to be too efficient. Kit, especially, seems to be pulling amazing skills out of his rear end when it's convenient. I suppose Augustus Raven could have been an amazing teacher when it comes to Hero's abilities, but when it comes to Kit, the author seems to be making things up about him as she goes along.
Still, I have to admit that it is a nice change to follow two characters who never do anything too stupid for once. Even when they get into trouble, they can extricate themselves out of the situation without much effort, so there is a charm in seeing how well these two work together. They make good partners in crime. I'm disappointed by how the final dramatic moments in the story are nothing more than a string of Gothic story clichés slapped together halfheartedly, but the story leading up to that point is pretty entertaining due to how well the characters work together to overcome the odds.
Because the characters focus more on what they are doing than on what they are feeling, the romance isn't as strong as it could have been. But because these two work well together, I feel that there is a good chance all the same that these two will be fine together in the long run. Therefore, I'm not too unhappy with the weak romance. However, I suspect that readers who are looking for a more emotion-driven story may beg to differ.
I find The Gentleman's Quest entertaining despite its rather lackluster romance, so my final score of this book will reflect this. However, if you prefer a more relationship-driven story instead of a road trip plot-driven tale with some romance that this story turns out to be, you may want to approach this one with some degree of caution.
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