A Shocking Delight
This, the fifteenth novel in Ms Beverley’s Company of Rogues series may not have been particularly shocking but it was a thoroughly delightful read ;-) I haven’t read all of the previous books in the series, but this works perfectly well as a standalone – although I did have a rough idea of who the secondary characters were from reading reviews of some of the other books, and Ms Beverley provides a little background information regarding the hero in her author’s note.
David Kerslake-Somerton first appeared in The Dragon’s Bride, when he had just taken up the reins as “Captain Drake”, the leader of a large smuggling ring, having more or less inherited both “title” and responsibility from his father, Melchisadeck Clyst. At the end of that book, David has become the Earl of Wyvern, it having been discovered that although Mel was his biological father, his mother was actually married to the previous earl at the time of his birth, which makes him the legitimate heir. A Shocking Delight picks up David’s story around a year later. He is still leading a double life as both earl and smuggler, trying to be all things to all men and isn’t particularly comfortable in either role. The earldom is also deeply improverished, and David is going to have to find himself a rich wife is he is to be able to maintain his estates and continue to fulfil his obligations as earl.
His investigations lead him to believe that perhaps Miss Lucinda Potter, daughter of a wealthy Cit, might be the solution to his problems. She has a dowry of thirty thousand pounds, and David hopes that she will be like most young heiresses – frivolous and empty headed enough not to wonder why her husband is absent on moonless nights. He doesn’t relish the idea of marrying a stupid woman, but he can’t take the risk of having someone around is capable of putting two and two together and making four.
Lucinda – or Lucy – must also come to terms with massive upheavals in her life. Her mother – the daughter of a viscount who scandalised the ton by running off to marry a mere merchant – has been dead one year, and now that the mourning period is over, Lucy hopes that her father, who has been somewhat distant since the loss of his wife, will once again invite her to take part in some of his business dealings. Lucy is fascinated by the whirlwind of the City, would much rather read the newspapers than the fashion magazines, and has nurtured the secret hope that her father will involve her in his business more and more, with the ultimate intention of naming her as his successor. Her hopes are dashed when he tells her that he is going to remarry and hopes to have a son, and makes it clear that he has never seen Lucy in the light of a potential business partner. He wants her to take her place in the world she belongs to by rights; her mother’s world of the ton, and is keen for her to marry a title. He may have had an unconventional marriage but he wants the conventional for his daughter.
While wanting her father to be happy, Lucy knows she is going to find it difficult to conceal her unhappiness and frustration, and decides to take up a long-standing invitation from her aunt, Lady Caldross, to visit her. She isn’t interested in marrying and knows that her dowry will attract every fortune hunter in London, but decides she may as well enjoy a season, and prepares for the journey from the City to the completely different world of Mayfair and the West End.
On the day she departs, Lucy pays a visit to her favourite bookshop, and there encounters a tall, handsome, country gentleman with whom she spends a pleasant few minutes chatting about books.
She doesn’t know that this is the newly-minted young earl everyone is talking about, and he doesn’t know that she is the heiress he has come to town to pursue – but both are instantly smitten. Their eventual reunion several days later at a ball is far from auspicious; both are dismayed and feel betrayed because the other is not what they had first appeared to be. Very soon that animosity is dispelled, and smitten turns into stolen kisses and not-so-harmless flirtation that explodes into a yearning desire the like of which Lucy has never imagined.
David and Lucy appear, at first glance, to be complete opposites, and they are complex characters whose flaws serve to make them more interesting and their actions appear more naturalistic. Despite their obvious differences – Lucy is city bred, while David is happiest in the countryside and by the sea, David is a smuggler – Lucy hates them; they share an affinity so strong that it soon becomes impossible for either to envision life without the other.
The path to true love does not, of course, run completely smooth. David and Lucy have to cope with familial interference, deeply-held secrets and tough decisions which are going to involve major changes in their lives. But when push comes to shove, they face the challenges together.
As one would expect of such an experienced author, the writing itself flows beautifully. The central characters are well-rounded and have great chemistry; and the love scenes, while not terribly explicit, are romantic and sensual. I was intrigued by Ms Beverley’s descriptions of the very different lifestyles espoused in the physically close but socially distant areas of the City and the West End of London – which isn’t something to which I’ve given much thought before, but the idea that even the fashions were different was rather an eye-opener. In addition, the depictions of life in the small Devonian communities and descriptions of the landscapes are engaging and evocative, and I enjoyed the sense of kinship the author created between the populace, villager and landowner alike.
If I have a criticism, it’s that David and Lucy’s initial infatuation with each other blossomed into love after only a handful of encounters; although I admit that thought didn’t occur to me until after I’d finished the book because their attraction was written so well and given such depth.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Shocking Delight, and reading it has made me want to go back and read the other books in the series which are still languishing on my TBR pile.