Confessions of a Dangerous Lord
Confessions of a Dangerous Lord is the seventh book in Elisa Braden’s Rescued from Ruin series, and although it features a storyline that has obviously been present in some of the earlier novels, this is the first of Ms. Braden’s books I’ve read and I was able to follow along quite easily. I won’t deny that there were a few times I wished I’d had a stronger grasp of how that plotline had evolved, but that’s down to me, and not any lack of skill on the part of the author – and anyway, it in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The writing is strong and the opening scenario drew me in straight away, quickly supplying some necessary back-story without being an info dump. The two principals are well-drawn, attractive characters, with the hero being one of those Pimpernel-esque types I’m particularly fond of; the garrulous society favourite who is widely believed to be interested only in horses and fashion but who is, beneath it all, fiercely intelligent, highly competent and utterly deadly.
Maureen Huxley has been in love with Henry Thorpe, Earl of Dunston, for pretty much the whole of the two years she has known him. He’s wealthy, deliciously handsome, charming, kind, clever and makes her laugh – in short he’s perfect for her, apart from one small thing. He doesn’t want her. Or rather, he isn’t interested in her romantically, much preferring to remain on terms of friendship with her. Reckoning that half a loaf is better than no bread at all, Maureen hides her disappointment at his rejection and they continue as friends, but lately, she has begun to wonder if her friendship with Henry may be scuppering her chances of making a suitable marriage. She has been out for three seasons and hasn’t received so much as a single offer; she longs for a husband and family of her own and realises that the only way she is ever going to stand a chance of getting those things is to cut ties with Henry and try to make room in her heart for someone else.
When Maureen announces this decision, Henry is stunned and furious at the thought of her marrying another man. He is as deeply in love with her as she is with him, but he can’t afford to let her know it, or to show any signs of preference for her while he is still working to unmask the Investor, the criminal mastermind he believes murdered his father and whom he has been tracking for the last ten years at the behest of the Home Office. He fears for Maureen’s safety if he marries her, but when she appears on the verge of accepting another suitor, Henry realises he loves her too much to lose her and decides it’s time for him to hand over his investigation to someone else. Unfortunately, however, things don’t go according to plan and on their wedding night, Maureen witnesses Henry fighting with and killing an intruder, and is shocked to look at her new husband and see a cold, calculating stranger. With no explanation, Henry orders Maureen to pack and whisks her out of London and to the Devonshire home of his friends, Colin and Sarah Lacey (whose story is told in book three, Desperately Seeking a Scoundrel) while he formulates a plan to put an end to the Investor, once and for all.
I admit that there are a couple of plot-devices at play here that I’m not particularly fond of; the “I can’t let anyone close to me because they will be endangered” and then the “I can’t explain and sully my innocent beloved’s ears with the darkness that surrounds me”. In the case of the former, however, Ms. Braden makes it work by making the Investor a truly nasty piece of work, detailing the methods by which he manipulates and uses people to gain his ends. In the face of these, Henry’s desire to keep Maureen out of the firing line makes perfect sense. And when it comes to the “no explanations” device, when I saw it coming, I admit my heart sank, but once again, Ms. Braden pulls things back by putting a slightly different spin on it and not allowing the misunderstandings to go on for too long. Maureen is justifiably angry with her husband, but is sensible enough to understand his reasons and they work through their differences in a refreshingly mature way.
Confessions of a Dangerous Lord is part romance, part mystery, and Ms. Braden gets the balance between the two elements just about right. She writes the longing that Maureen and Henry feel for one another so well that it’s almost palpable, and the air fairly crackles with sexual tension whenever they are in a scene together. Henry’s delightfully dry sense of humour and powerful charisma make him a hero who fairly leaps off the page, and he and Maureen are clearly well-matched in every way. As I said at the beginning, I was able to follow the mystery plot well enough, although I would probably have benefitted from reading at few of the earlier books in the series – a situation I intend to rectify at some point. The dénouement – in which the motives of the Investor are finally revealed – is a little weak, but overall, this is a very readable yarn that moves at a cracking pace and I enjoyed it enough to give it a strong recommendation, especially to those who enjoy a side order of adventure with their romance.