Desert Isle Keeper
Lady Be Good
This book is the third in Meredith Duran’s Rules for the Reckless series and it is the best of the lot so far. I love the unusual time setting for this series and the somewhat unconventional heroes and heroines. If you have been following Ms. Duran’s series, you will not want to miss this latest installment. That said, the book works well as a standalone.
Lilah Marshall/Lily Monroe comes from somewhat meager beginnings that have the taint of the London criminal underworld about them. Her father was a criminal and, when Lilah’s father died, her uncle Nick O’Shea took over and expanded his empire. Nick took in Lilah and her sister Fiona when they were orphaned and he thinks they owe him.
When the book opens, Lilah is stealing something for her uncle due to his threat that her sick sister will not receive the medical attention she needs if Lilah refuses. Lilah is nearly caught during the theft and becomes literally stuck in between two buildings making it necessary for Nick to rescue her. Unfortunately, by the time she is rescued, her sister has died from complications during appendicitis surgery. Fiona dreamed of becoming an Everleigh Girl and Lilah planned to become a typist so the two could escape their crime-ridden life and eventually live in a country cottage.
When Fiona dies, Lilah takes on her sister’s dream and becomes an Everleigh Girl. Everleigh girls are basically hostesses for the Everleigh Auction House. The job of an Everleigh Girl is to attempt to charm clients into purchasing items included in the auctions. Lilah reinvents herself with elocution, etiquette and comportment classes so that she can pass as a gentlewoman and earn a respectable living. Unfortunately, her Uncle Nick is not through with her and threatens to expose her if she does not steal some papers from the owner of Everleigh Auctions.
Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer is the Hero of Bekhole. He became England’s darling when he turned a disastrous situation in Afghanistan into a victory. Unfortunately, he made a mortal enemy when the English forces blew up a compound owned by a renegade Russian general. This general (falsely) claims Kit killed women and children in the blast and vows vengeance on Kit’s family. When Kit’s elder brother is killed in a fire and Kit is sent a note from the general, Kit understands this enemy is very serious about harming Kit’s family and he sets out to protect his remaining family members.
Kit gets a clue as to the whereabouts of his enemy when a lamp he recognizes from his brief imprisonment by the Russian general is among items for sale at Everleigh’s Auction House. His plan is to get close to the Everleighs so he can follow one of them and find his nemesis. When he gets Peter Everleigh alone in his office, Lilah is in the process of stealing Peter’s letters. Kit sees her, but Peter doesn’t, so Kit ends up blackmailing Lilah into helping him get information that might help lead him to the murderous general. Thus begins a complicated relationship between Lilah and Kit.
Lilah is a wonderful character who has a dream, and yet is very pragmatic due to her upbringing. When Kit blackmails her into helping him, she is caught between a rock and a hard place. One wrong step in either direction (not helping Kit or not getting Peter’s letters to her uncle on time) will spell disaster. She is a fully realized character who is unusual for historicals. She knows exactly who she is and, though she is pretending to be more than her beginnings made her, she is still very much her own woman. I have not encountered such a wonderfully drawn character in some time and she was definitely a breath of fresh air.
Kit Stratton was more conventional for a typical European historical, but he had a depth to him that was also refreshing. His character was not black and white, but definitely lived in that gray area where honor is a questionable thing. His treatment of Lilah in the beginning did his honor no good, even though the reader knew his goal was laudable. Ms. Duran did an excellent job of straddling that good/bad fence while his character unfolded and which made for great tension between the hero and heroine. Since this is a romance novel, I knew that Kit would redeem himself, but Duran certainly kept this reader guessing as to which way and how he would jump.
I did not know until I did a little research about this series and began writing this review that the secondary characters in this book will be the main characters in Ms. Duran’s next book, Luck Be a Lady. She did a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters of Catherine Everleigh and Nick O’Shea and I was pleasantly surprised to find out they have their own story coming out at the end of August.
My tiny little quibble with Lady Be Good is that though the setting does not qualify as wallpaper historical, it does skirt that edge. I would have liked to have seen just a bit more expansion on the era right before the turn of the century. Still, the book deserves DIK status in this reader’s opinion. I am sure that I will revisit Lilah and Kit again and again over the coming years.