Desert Isle Keeper
A Lady's Code of Misconduct
Meredith Duran is one of the finest historical romance authors writing today. Given any storyline or any romance trope, she makes it fresh and new and interesting. The characters’ reactions are never commonplace, the plots are never tired and predictable, and the writing is always to the point and yet lovely at the same time. I like the attention she pays to crafting a good book that goes beyond writing a good story.
Crispin Burke wakes up in a soft bed with a broken skull, a shattering headache, and with no memory of how he got there or who did violence to his head. He recognizes his parents and siblings and recalls his unhappy familial life at their hands, but he does not recognize Jane Mason, his wife. And he remembers nothing of his political career or the mercurial and radical rise to power which could see him become Prime Minister..
Jane recognizes that Crispin has amnesia but his family does not, so she implicitly conspires with him to keep everyone in the dark. In return, she hopes Crispin will not find out about the lie that is their marriage. In order to claim the inheritance set aside for her by her father, Jane has engineered a sham – but legally binding – marriage to Crispin. She was running out of time, desperate to prevent her uncle (who was her guardian) from embezzling away all her funds while at the same time pressing her to marry his son. In making her fake marriage, Jane hopes that Crispin’s tenuous hold on life will become too much for his delicate brain and he’ll succumb to his injuries, thereby granting her the freedom and financial independence to forge her own life.
But life invariably carries a sting in its tail. Crispin survives his ordeal and grapples with his loss of memory and having to re-learn the politics of recent months. His former cronies, allies, and enemies troop through his house at all hours, expecting him to behave true to form. He has to rely solely on Jane to see him through.
The old Crispin was malicious, calculating, ruthless and up to his neck in corruption, buying votes, blackmailing his opponents, and bringing pressure to bear on MPs and Lords alike. With his sights set on becoming Prime Minister, nothing was going to stop him from getting his latest bill passed. His motto was: Need no one. Trust no one.
The new Crispin is tender and respectful towards Jane and decent and humane towards others. She likes the new version as much as she loathes the old one, and yet time after time, she finds herself defending the old to the new. She’s torn between the two Crispins and the woman she is with both of them. She gradually comes to understand that Crispin must have married her because he loves her and desires her and that he wants to remain married to her, although her own feelings toward him are not so easily determined. Their gradual discovery of mutual attraction, readily on his part and reluctantly on hers, is so well done. The more time they spend discussing politics in turn increases their desire for each other. Intelligence is so attractive!
This was not the man who had forced kisses on her.
She did not know who this man was.
“You don’t know my inner mettle.” Her words were clipped. He did not know her. His honeyed words were empty; she would not be cozened by them. “You don’t know me at all.”
His hand came over hers. Touching her again, stroking the back of her hand lightly. “True,” he said. “Perhaps…I’m the luckiest of men. To be allowed to discover my bride twice; to have the chance to fall in love all over again.”
Jane has always lived in a politically active family, first with her father and then her uncle, and through keen observation and a ferocious intellect, she has a good grasp of life amid the corridors of power. She’s pleased to find that Crispin greatly values her opinions, and she enjoys the renaissance of her political mind.
With the Commons debate of Crispin’s Penal Law bill imminent, he doesn’t have much time to prepare. While Jane has apprised him that he was the author of the bill, he finds that his views are no longer in harmony with those of his old self and wants to oppose his own propositions. Jane’s uncle – formerly Crispin’s closest associate – now stands as his staunchest opponent.
So the eternal question that eats at Jane is this; because the person Crispin has become is so radically different from the person he was, when his memories come back, will he go back to the way he was, will he stay the same as he is now, or will there be a new man rising like a phoenix from the ashes of his injury? And of paramount importance is this – will he then set their marriage aside?
From moment to moment, Jane lives with this fear of the unknown, and it’s alternately frightening and fatiguing. At heart, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is a story of trust. Can a woman trust her instincts when it comes to the most important person in her life – her husband? What should she believe? what should she disbelieve?; When should she change her mind about what she used to believe? The book is a fascinating study in how fragile and malleable trust is and how easily it can be abused or even bruised.
I loved reading A Lady’s Code of Misconduct for its complexity of thought and emotional characterization, for the tender romance, for the philosophical questioning, and for the intrigue that shadows the story right to the end. It is the fifth book in the Rules for the Reckless series, but it stands alone, so you can dive right into it without needing to have read the previous four.