Hero Wanted is an unlikely but entertaining story that is equal parts adventure and love story. It’s one of those books where you have to just settle in for the ride, checking your reality meter at the gate.
The Alcot and Townsend families are both owners of shipping companies in need of cash. The fathers hatch a plan to marry their children – Lauren Alcot and Rafe Twonsend – thereby releasing Lauren’s inheritance from her mother and using the cash to save their merged business. Unfortunately, Lauren can’t stand Rafe and she breaks off the engagement when he refuses to rescue two drowning women. Lauren plunges in the river (half-stripped of her clothing) to do the job herself. She calls him a coward, he questions her modesty, and the engagement is over. Or so they think!
A reporter witnessed the scene at the river and now all of London is calling Lauren the “Angel of the River” and seeing Rafe as “one of those who merely watched her heroism”. The reporter also commented on Lauren’s
“brazen exhibition of nakedness that her fiancé seemed to find as appalling as she found his cowardice”.
Both of their reputations are in tatters. Lauren and Rafe meet and agree to present a different story to the world – the reporter got it wrong, it was a mere misunderstanding, they are still in love and engaged. They will keep up the pretense for a few months, long enough for the scandal to blow over. Their plan is to appear in public together every day and make London believe their polished-over story.
Their time together, where each chooses a different outing each day, proves to be educational for both. Rafe is still puzzled by Lauren’s impulsiveness but now he gets to see her kindness, cleverness, and self-possession, while Lauren starts to see that there is more to Rafe than she originally thought. It’s looking like they’ll be able to stand each other’s company for a few months and fool the London gossips. And then they get kidnapped.
Yep, kidnapped. And not once but twice! Lauren also almost drowns (twice) and has to be saved (twice) by Rafe. Lauren rescues street urchins; Rafe attempts to quiet a mob at the docks; Lauren and Rafe set their kidnapper’s ship on fire and save the cargo; their fathers’ warehouses at the docks get burglarized; a government official tries to undermine the merger and the engagement; and the dratted reporter follows their every adventure as Lauren goes from “Angel of the River” to “Angel of the Streets” to “Angel of London”. Like I said – a befuddling ride.
But here’s the thing – I totally enjoyed it. I liked Lauren immediately. She knows what she wants and is determined to make a difference in the world. She is also aware of her duty to her family and does an admirable job balancing her needs and her family’s requirements of her. She is willing to see a different side of Rafe, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Rafe took a little longer to warm up to – he definitely comes across as a self-righteous prig. But, we learn (a little late in my opinion) that there is a reason Rafe didn’t jump into the river at the start of the story. Luckily for the story, we see a warmer, kinder side of Rafe fairly early on.
The romance works well because all these crazy adventures throw Rafe and Lauren together in many different circumstances and they wisely spend their time getting to know each other and working together to solve problems. And even though their adventures are sometimes bonkers, Lauren and Rafe are entirely sane and reasonable people. After such a dismal start to their romance, the final product is unexpectedly believable.
This book came to me at just the right time – I was in the mood for something fun and adventurous. If you’re not feeling like a romp through Victorian England is for you right now, then maybe leave it for now. But, if you are looking for a fast-moving, rollicking adventure (and you’re willing to just go with it), pick Hero Wanted up and have some fun!