HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77783-9
Historical Romance, 2013
I really do not recommend reading Kasey Michaels’s What a Gentleman Desires if you haven’t read the previous two books in this series revolving around the Redgrave siblings. Actually, the book stands a lot pretty decently, as the author introduces the back story in a fluid and non-intrusive manner.
The thing here is that the book is being marketed as a typical romantic comedy, and the prologue reinforces this notion. As with the previous two books however, there are some really dark elements here that would be more at home in a historical mystery that pulls no punches with the scary stuff. At least, if you have read the previous books, you will know what to expect here and won’t suffer whiplash that would ruin your reading experience.
At any rate, if you are new, read my review of the first book in the series, What an Earl Wants, to get the background details.
In this story, it’s Valentine Redgrave’s turn to take the wheel. While his brother and sister are doing their thing, he decides to tackle the matter of the Society in his own way. He’s actually a spy playing up the fact that he’s a spoiled and vain dandy to get around, and he has been cultivating the friendship of a Society member, Lord Charles Mailer, in order to gain entry into the Society itself. He hopes to learn more about the members and, more importantly, their leader. Those men are plotting to take down England, after all!
As it happens, our heroine Daisy Marchant gets herself employed as a companion to Lord Mailer’s children so that she can also get close to the family. Her sister had vanished without a word after being courted by a man that Daisy believes to be Lord Mailer, and she wants to find out what happened to Rose. Valentine immediately recognizes a fellow undercover poser, but mistakenly assumes that she’s sent by the Prime Minister. By the time he realizes that Daisy is a free agent way out of her depths, it’s too late to extricate himself from her problems. Besides, he’s a gentleman and he is all about rescuing women in distress.
The first thing I should point out here is that the focus of the story for the first two-thirds or so is on the investigation and undercover stuff. This is understandable, as these two should be paying attention to the serious business they have committed themselves to, instead of making eyes at one another. However, this also means that the romance in this story may be light enough to disappoint people who are expecting more.
I personally have no problems with this, as I find the non-romantic elements of the story interesting enough to keep turning the pages. I’m a bit puzzled by how ineffective Valentine can be at times – he tends to underestimate his opponents and he does get overpowered a bit too easily, hmm – but Daisy is pretty realistic in that, while she’s not useless in any means, she is definitely out of her depths here. Still, she can pull her own the best she can, and she is more often an ally than a liability. These two work very well together and there is an easy partners-in-crime chemistry that reminds me of the kind Amanda Quick usually did when she, somewhat ironically, was more about romance than mystery.
The mystery by itself isn’t something amazing, but the author’s narrative makes it very hard for me to put the book down. The build up, the atmosphere, the tension and the fear, and the denouement all come together to result in a solid thriller, and the moments of humor provide some much-needed reprieve for me to catch my breath.
The late third, when the author crams all the romance to make up for the lack of heavy breathing up to that point, could have been a dull read as the fun has ebbed and Daisy is pulling that now-tedious “Don’t marry me unless you love me! (I’ll still sleep with you, though!)” stunt. But the author drops some revelations that set up the next book very nicely. By the last page, I’m definitely interested in reading that next book.
What a Gentleman Desires may not be, I suspect, everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally have a great time reading it. Then again, I’m hooked on the story arc since the first book, and the author is doing a pretty good job sustaining the momentum so far. The romance is secondary to me at this point, and I like the main characters more as accomplices than darlings in love, heh. When’s the next book coming out? I can’t wait.