Desert Isle Keeper
One Night is Never Enough
Anne Mallory’s One Night is Never Enough is as close to perfect as any love story I’ve read in recent memory. I bet it’s the best historical romance I’ll read this year and, yes, I know it’s only March.
Ms. Mallory gets better and better with each novel she pens. Her last work, The Seven Secrets of Seduction is a terrific read and earned a DIK from this site. The heroine of One Night is Never Enough is a minor but fascinating character from The Seven Secrets of Seduction: One Charlotte Chatsworth, an Incomparable of the ton.
Charlotte has been raised to be a nobleman’s wife and to use her beauty to secure a place for herself and her family at the top of Regency society. When she was younger, she was sure such a future would bring her happiness. Now, she’s not. Her sot of a father has gambled away the family’s fortune and her mother’s and younger sister Emily’s very safety depends on Charlotte. Charlotte is horribly, heavily chained by her father’s determination to wed her to “the largest crown” — a wealthy peer.
Roman Merrick is no peer. A roughneck from the streets, now powerful and affluent from his gambling empire, he has wanted Charlotte since he first laid eyes upon her. Thus, when her father stakes a night with his daughter in a game at Merrick’s tables, Roman cheats and earns the night with Charlotte for himself. In a lesser book, one can see how the story would go. Roman would win Charlotte, seduce her, the two would fall in love and the reader would never really wonder what underpins such a romance. One Night is Never Enough is not a lesser book. Ms. Mallory writes with such depth and confidence that every chapter is a revelation.
Everything works in this book. The language, the plot, the secondary characters, and the setting all are as good as any I’ve read. But what sets this book apart is its willingness to push past the assumptions made in the vast majority of romances. Ms. Mallory challenges the very idea of the handsome hero and the beautiful heroine in ways I’ve not experienced before. Nowhere is this better evinced than in the way she handles the issue of physical beauty.
Charlotte, like so many romance heroines, is a great beauty. For Charlotte, being physically perfect impacts not only how society sees her — her loveliness makes her far more valuable on the marriage mart — it is also how she defines herself. When she and Roman begin their wildly seductive love affair, Charlotte must puzzle out what part of his attraction is based on her beauty and what that means for her ability to believe that the two of them could have a future, indeed for her to have faith that they could literally grow old together. Not only does Charlotte not trust Roman to love her if she were to age “ungracefully;” she doesn’t really trust herself. Vanity, in this book isn’t good or bad — it’s a natural and complicated part of Charlotte’s psyche. Ms. Mallory unabashedly acknowledges that sexual attraction is often based on beauty and yet, for a lifetime of lovely lust, somehow both lovers’ definitions of beauty must evolve. Most romances resolve that issue by asserting that anyone who really loves another will love the other independent of beauty. Ms. Mallory’s handling of that issue is less facile and, ultimately, more rewarding.
I loved this book. Charlotte and Roman — and the people in their lives (Roman’s brother Andreas is so interesting I implore Ms. Mallory to write a book for him!) — are vivid, wrenchingly real characters. Their story may be set in Regency England but the issues they struggle with — societal and familial expectation, personal fears and doubt — are written in a way that makes them timeless. All of us wonder about who we are and want to be and how that meshes with who our other is and wants to be. In One Night is Never Enough, one exceptional couple explores those questions with passion and intellect. What more could a romance reader, indeed a reader, want?