Desert Isle Keeper
How a Lady Weds a Rogue
I first read How a Lady Weds a Rogue years ago and I loved it. After reading it again this past week, I think I loved it even more. The third novel in Katharine Ashe’s Falcon Club series, it features Wyn Yale, aka The Raven, whose specialty is retrieving lost girls. Charming, handsome, clever and kind, Wyn is the consummate gentleman; he’s only ever failed one of the women in his charge… but the loss has haunted him ever since. For the past five years he’s sought solace at the bottom of a bottle, but when How a Lady Weds a Rogue opens, Wyn has a new sense of purpose. Revenge. Tasked by the Falcon Club with retrieving and returning Lady Priscilla, a prized horse, to the same evil duke who murdered the girl Wyn was sworn to protect, Wyn vows to kill him and face the consequences. But his plans go awry when, shortly after he recovers Lady Priscilla, he finds himself traveling on the Mail Coach with Lady Diantha Lucas, who’s embarked on a life-altering mission of her own.
Lady Diantha Lucas is in need of a hero when she spots Wyn Yale asleep in the crowded Mail Coach. Days into their journey, her maid, Annie, absconded with a local farm boy, and Diantha is wary of the man in the corner of the coach leering at her. Trying and failing to come up with a new travel plan, she decides she needs a hero. If she can find such a man to escort and accompany her on a quest to locate her absent mother in Calais, she can still complete the journey and return home with her family none the wiser. Canvassing the other men in the coach – pointedly ignoring the man staring at her from the corner, she notices a gentleman in a top hat napping on the bench across from her. Bending closer to see his face, she’s convinced her prayers have been answered. It’s Wyn Yale, who rescued her once long ago. When the Mail Coach next stops, she approaches him and asks for help.
Unfortunately for Diantha, Wyn has no desire to accompany her to Calais, or return her to the mother who abandoned her family three years ago under a cloud of rumor and scandal.
Unfortunately for Wyn, Diantha is determined to go to Calais – with or without him.
Unfortunately for both of them, nothing about the journey – she thinks they’re going to Calais, he’s secretly trying (albeit by a circuitous route) to return her home – goes according to plan.
I don’t want to dwell on or spoil Ms. Ashe’s take on the traditional road trip trope except to say this trip is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. The author masterfully juxtaposes it against the developing romance between Wyn and Diantha and several other completing plotlines: Wyn’s association with the Falcon Club, two potentially villainous men following them, and the reasons each has for undertaking the road trip that finds them meeting on the Mail Coach. What elevates HALWAR from other similarly good road trip romances (including the two Falcon Club novels that precede it) is the personal journey Diantha and Wyn undertake that unfolds in parallel with their literal journey. Ms. Ashe introduces two outwardly charming, funny, kind and good individuals, peels back their layers to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets, and then magnificently renders a moving and redemptive love story. Her characterization of these two principal characters is absolutely marvelous.
When Wyn’s travels intersect with Diantha’s, he’s barely keeping his alcohol addiction at bay. Handsome, charming, and strictly committed to his personal set of “Rules a Man is Well Advised to Follow in Order to Be a True Gentleman,” Wyn is something of a chameleon – always able to do and say the right thing. But his failure to save a girl in his care destroyed his fragile equilibrium. His murderous plan for revenge is the only thing that gives him purpose – until he meets Diantha. Ms. Ashe brilliantly depicts his struggles with alcohol addiction, never shying away from the reality of his craving or the effect of his drinking on his life and the lives of those around him. It’s a moving and harrowing characterization, and it’s difficult to witness his struggles to cope, detox and ultimately overcome his addiction. The promise of Diantha – her love, her affection, her peace – is a solace when Wyn is in his darkest place, striving to be worthy of her love. Oh it’s lovely and moving and wonderful to witness. Ms. Ashe doesn’t pull any punches, and her pacing in this section of the novel is superb.
Although Wyn is attracted to Diantha almost from the moment they meet on the coach, I wasn’t as quickly enamored of her. She’s initially portrayed as a slightly silly, self-deprecating, kind to a fault saint of sorts, but as their journey – literally and figuratively – progresses, I also fell under her spell. A pimply, awkward, and plump teenager bullied by her peers and verbally abused by her mother, Diantha somehow emerged with an innate goodness and beauty that ensures all who meet her love her – including Wyn. She’s curious and resourceful, honest and determined, passionate – and frequently cursed with self-doubt. She’s hidden her insecurities behind a charming and happy façade, but she aches to find love and companionship. Curious, determined and overwhelmingly attracted to Wyn, Diantha never gives up on him, even when he’s nearly given up on himself.
Although the best parts of this novel feature Wyn and Diantha, there’s quite a bit of other ‘stuff’ going on, too. We learn more details about the secret Falcon Club and its members, and the author teases us with letters between Lady Justice and Peregrine. We also meet the enigmatic Mr. Eads – is he a good guy or a bad guy? And why is he following Wyn? It’s a lot – but it all works. Friends, this is not your standard road trip romance. It’s so much more. And it’s all great.
THIS is the gold standard in happily ever afters: Romantic. Passionate. Funny. Sad. Tender. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. Frustrating. Special. Featuring two of my favorite principal characters, Wyn Yale and Diantha Lucas, How a Lady Weds a Rogue will engage and engross you from start to finish.