Dangerous to Love
Dangerous to Love is a book that gets off to a great start. The premise is interesting, and the characters seem exciting and different. But halfway through the book the lead characters begin to behave stereotypically. Another promising book becomes a disappointment.
The hero is Ivan Thornton, Earl of Westcott. The bastard son of the late Earl and a gypsy, Ivan was sold by his mother to his scheming grandmother when it became apparent that his father would have no legitimate heirs. The young Ivan was placed in a boarding school with other bastard sons of nobility and ignored for the next twenty years.
As the story opens, Ivan has just inherited his father’s title. He is living in London, determined to exact revenge on the society that shunned him, particularly his elderly grandmother, the Dowager Countess. He plans to flirt with young women, get them to fall in love with him, and then drop them cold. Meanwhile his grandmother is sharing his home. Her fondest wish is to see him married and dutifully begetting the next earl before she dies. Of course, his has no intention of fulfilling her wishes.
The grandmother meets the heroine at a dinner party and decides that she would be perfect for Ivan. Lucy Drysdale is a twenty-eight year old bluestocking. with a keen interest in child psychology. She has been serving as a governess to her brother’s children, but secretly longs to go to London and associate with other scholars. Particularly she desires to meet Sir James Mawbey, a psychologist with whom she has been corresponding. When the Dowager Countess invites Lucy to come to London as a chaperone for her niece, Lucy quickly accepts.
This first half of the book really shines. Ivan pursues Lucy at various ton functions and at home. He has three friends with backgrounds similar to his, and they are always on the sidelines. At least two of them have excellent sequel potential. The originally fearful and whiny Valerie also becomes more interesting as she becomes enamored with the very psychologist Lucy has come to see. The first half culminates when Ivan hosts a dinner party and gets caught in a compromising position with Lucy in her bed chamber.
Unfortunately, all books need two halves, and this one falls apart in the second. Lucy and Ivan both engage in behavior that is progressively more irritating. Although we all know they have to get married, Lucy drags her feet and tells Ivan she can’t do it. She resists because she thinks he doesn’t love her, but he ends up believing she just doesn’t want to marry a gypsy. When they finally do get married, Ivan immediately takes off for six weeks. Separations between the hero and the heroine are often annoying, and this is no exception. At one point they are both in London and he is still ignoring her. At this point I was pretty tired of both of them. Eventually they get together again, and then he leaves again, and…you get the idea. They reconcile in the last few pages, but by that time I didn’t like either of them as much as I had at first.
The love scenes were one of the best parts of the book: sensual, but not too flowery or trite. Ultimately, the love scenes alone couldn’t redeem Dangerous to Love. Once the characters became unlikable in the second half, boredom set in. Without a villain around, the plot quickly degenerated into the old “I-love-you-but-I-just-can’t-tell-you” saw. This rather hackneyed plot device is beneath the talents of Rexanne Becnel, who has written some wonderful romances in the past. Better luck next time.