A Dangerous Man
Candace Camp is known for her usually reliable, entertaining Regency and Victorian-set historicals. A Dangerous Man is no exception, providing a pleasant and engrossing read.
Eleanor, a strong, independent American who likes nothing better than organizing others’ lives for them, married Sir Edmund Scarbrough, a consumptive musical genius with a domineering and manipulative mother. Eleanor quickly whipped his life into order, tackled the mother-in-law, and whisked Edmund off to Italy where the climate is better for his condition. All went well for a year. Edmund’s health improved, he had just completed his operatic masterpiece, and then he died in a boating accident. Six months later, having seen his opera produced, Eleanor returns to England, bringing back her husband’s ashes and his will, which makes her the sole trustee of the fortune left to his young sister.
Honoria, the dowager Lady Scarbrough, is up in arms. She always thought Eleanor an upstart fortune hunter and now suspects her of killing her son. She sends her much younger half-brother Anthony, Earl of Neale, off to deal with Eleanor. Accusations and sparks fly during the confrontation, however Anthony leaves convinced that Eleanor didn’t kill Edmund, but still sure she married him for his money. They part thoroughly disliking each other, though having kissed each other senseless.
But, someone repeatedly breaks into Eleanor’s home – both in Italy and London. What are they looking for? Is Eleanor in danger? Was Edmund murdered after all? I had the villain of the piece pegged early on, but Camp made me second-guess myself several times – not a bad thing. Despite their initial distrust of each other, Eleanor and Anthony team up to solve the mystery, falling in love in the process.
I thought Eleanor to be a great, vivid character. Not only is she über-competent, she has traveled the world with her father and has a very eclectic household: an African man of business, an ex-boxer butler, and an Indian amah for her two adopted children. She is strong and tough and more than capable of dealing with her nasty mother-in-law and Edmund’s suspicious uncle. But as she learns to trust Anthony, she is also able to learn to lean on someone else for a change, if only momentarily. I liked her a lot.
Anthony wasn’t as well-drawn or complete a character, and more than once slid into clichéd-hero mode. His father’s third wife was a grasping adventuress who drove a wedge between him and his father, so he is more suspicious of Eleanor than he might otherwise have been. But I found this to be a pretty lame excuse – it would have been easy enough to investigate Eleanor and learn that she has more than enough of her own money to have married Edmund for his. This seems the obvious thing to do and, in fact, is the first thing Eleanor herself did, helping to allay her own suspicions about Anthony.
At first glance a love story between a man and his nephew’s widow has a bit of an ick factor to it. However, Anthony was only ten years older than Edmund and Eleanor was several years older than her husband, so Anthony and Eleanor are only a few years apart in age. What about the Laws of Consanguinity, you may ask? Being an historical accuracy nut, believe me, I checked and it was legal, though – also on the historical accuracy front – Eleanor was incorrectly called “Lady Eleanor” rather than “Lady Scarbrough”, which made me a little nuts – and surprised me, for Camp should know better. And, finally, reconciling me to the “nephew’s widow” thing is the fact that Edmund and Eleanor never consummated their marriage. Yes, this leaves us with yet another Virgin Widow, but this seemed reasonable to me in this case, given Edmund’s poor health and their platonic caregiver/care-receiver relationship, and is plain from the outset, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to the reader.
Candace Camp has been writing historical romances for decades and is adept at plotting and moving a story along at a swift and engrossing clip. This was certainly the case with A Dangerous Man. The romance flowed nicely and the against-their-wills passion was well done. If there were a few annoyances along the way, they were indeed few and I zipped right through this book in no time. It was a fun, fast read and I recommend it.