The Dangerous Viscount
Sometimes an author manages to take a plot device I usually despise and turn it into a novel I thoroughly enjoy. In the newest book by Miranda Neville the plot device in question is the revenge plot, and what can I say? It works just fine, and the resulting romance is both moving and fun to read.
The story begins at a house party at the Duke of Hampton’s country seat, hosted by the duke’s son, the Marquis of Blakeney. For the widowed Diana, Lady Fanshawe, it’s the ideal setting to finally fix the interest of the marquis, with whom she has been infatuated since girlhood. The gentleman whose interest she does attract, however, is Blakeney’s cousin Sebastian Iverley, a bookish and misogynistic recluse of no social graces whatsoever who is only at the house to conduct research in the library and who is deeply irritated by the guests. The situation strikes Diana and Blakeney as funny, and they enter a bet on whether Diana can get Sebastian to kiss her.
Diana almost instantly regrets the bet, but feeling honor-bound to carry on and more than half-fascinated with Sebastian, she encourages him until he seizes the moment for a remarkable kiss. Unfortunately, he overhears his cousin talking of the bet and leaves, hurt and confirmed in his prejudices. A few months later Sebastian arrives in London as the new Viscount Iverley. With the help of his two best friends, he acquires a new wardrobe and some polish as it’s his plan to make Diana fall in love with him, then reject her in turn, and break her heart.
The revenge plot for me depends entirely on the character of the person who wants to take revenge. With Sebastian, it’s pitch-perfect. Although he is highly intelligent, he lacks self-knowledge and, due to having been brought up by a misogynistic hermit uncle, his interactions with women have been few and negative. So while I smiled at Sebastian’s naïveté, I was also moved by the depth of his hurt and the emotional confusion in which he finds himself. What else is there about Sebastian? He is a virgin, and is very interested and open-minded about everything except women; his usual response to anything new is, “I must get a book about this!” Before you start to think him all wonderful, however, I should point out that he is a true and proper misogynist at the start of the novel, and that his prejudices are deeply ingrained enough to make him a real pain at times. I loved him anyway.
Diana is a character drawn in shades of gray as well. She comes from a thoroughly eccentric family, and, although she loves them deeply, their foibles have hurt her in the past. As the only non-intellectual of that family, she at first appears to reject anything not to do with fashion and society, but soon proves well read and clever in her own right. While she can be careless and even spiteful when provoked, most of the time she is caring, understanding, and full of common sense.
The secondary characters were charming and amusing, and – rare in romance – within that tightly knit group of friends, not everyone loves everyone else, but there is tension due to different characters, opinions, and events in the past. How refreshingly realistic! I can’t wait to read more about Diana’s younger sister Minerva and the hero whom (I hope) she is to be paired with.
With all this praise, why is The Dangerous Viscount not a Desert Island Keeper? The book came thisclose. But while I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I was at times vaguely irritated (perhaps at the style), and, more important, the emotional response I demand from a DIK was just not there, however much I liked the book. It’s nothing I can quite put my finger on (except not liking the title – silly and inaccurate), but there it is. It’s still a very good book, though, which I wholeheartedly recommend.