One Night of Temptation
I’ve enjoyed a number of Darcy Burke’s historical romances in the past and have reviewed a number of them favourably here at AAR, but I’m afraid I can’t do that for her latest release, One Night of Temptation. The book is the sixth in the Wicked Dukes Club series which Ms. Burke has co-authored with Erica Ridley (they have written alternate books with Ms. Ridley penning the odd numbered ones and Ms. Burke the even) – featuring a group of friends, not all of whom are dukes, who meet regularly at their favourite watering hole in St. Giles – The Wicked Duke. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but they’re designed to work as standalones, so potential readers can jump in anywhere and not have to worry about feeling lost.
What they do need to worry about with this book, however, is its utter flimsiness. One Night of Temptation is short for a novel, coming in at under two hundred pages, but there’s not even enough plot to fill that short a page count. The romance is basically love at first sight, the principals are bland and there’s little to no chemistry between them, and the whole story is wrapped up in about a week.
Lady Penelope Wakefield, daughter of the Marquess of Bramber is fleeing an unwanted marriage to an unpleasant lecher old enough to be her grandfather. She’s hatched a plan together with a young woman she met and befriended on a charitable errand at a church in St. Giles; Penelope is going to be abducted (but not really) and spend a night away from home which, when word gets out, will be enough to ruin her reputation, and the old goat won’t want to marry her after that. But it turns out that poor naïve Pen was duped, and the woman she thought of as a friend had made plans for a real kidnap and ransom. Fortunately for Pen, the men trying to hustle her away are prevented from doing so by the timely intervention of Hugh Tarleton, Rector of the parish of St. Giles who, learning of her situation, takes her to a decent inn he knows and arranges for them both to spend the night there (in separate rooms of course). But while the inn is decent, the area is rough and after a fight breaks out downstairs, Hugh decides it would be safest if they shared a room – Pen taking the bed, he in the chair by her side, naturally. They work out a plan by which Pen can be returned to home and safety now that she’s been publicly ruined, and even though her father will be furious and will probably send her to the family’s remote estate in Lancashire, that’s better than being married to the obnoxious Earl of Findon. During the course of the evening, however, she becomes aware that an even better alternative would be marriage to Hugh… but of course, that’s impossible. She’d never be allowed to marry so far beneath her, even if Hugh were interested.
About half the book is taken up with the Night of Temptation that Pen and Hugh spend holed up at the inn. They talk and get to know each other a bit, and Pen realises she’s experiencing attraction for the first time. Hugh is good looking, yes, but he’s also kind, strong and exudes confidence – and he’s unlike any man she’s ever met. Hugh is smitten as well and longs to protect Pen from her unfeeling parents, but knows he can’t possibly aspire to the hand of the daughter of a marquess.
One Night of Temptation was a quick read, but a dull one. Caring, stalwart Hugh (who, incidentally, is described in the blurb as “imperious” but is nothing of the sort) had the potential to be a lovely hero, but Pen was almost a blank slate; all we knew about her was that her parents were shits, she was afraid of her father and she liked embroidery and cream cheese. She seems to have no relationships outside her immediate family and to have led a very sheltered life – yet of course she has the instincts of a temptress.
Ultimately, I’m afraid I was bored, and the only temptation I experienced while reading was to put the book down and not pick it up again.