One Wild Night
Lady Charlotte Quinton was a villain in an earlier book in this series, Romancing the Rogue. She stole a valuable necklace and hid it under the pillow of that book’s heroine, successfully framing the other woman as a thief. When Charlotte was caught a terrible scene ensued, and she was banished from her family to live alone in York. She has lived there for two years, coming to repent her selfish ways and longing to be accepted back into her family.
When her grandmother and the grandmother’s two closest friends – a meddling elderly trio collectively known as the Rosebuds – are injured in a carriage accident, Charlotte rushes to London to be with them. Unfortunately, this means coming into contact with Brand Villiers, the handsome and rakish Earl of Faversham. As a young girl, Charlotte adored Brand, and was badly hurt and humiliated by him. Worse, it was Brand who discovered her perfidy with the necklace, and it still stings to think about the things he said to her at that time. But Charlotte knows that she must face him if she is ever to live down her past actions. Brand thinks that Charlotte is a shrew and a liar, and that her current remorse is all an act. He doesn’t believe that people can change their ways. But he doesn’t actually have a lot of time to think about Charlotte, since he’s involved in a murder investigation. Members of a former hellfire club, the Lucifer League, are dying mysteriously, and as a former member himself Brand could be next. Worse, the Rosebuds once investigated the Lucifer League, and they are apparently targets of the killer as well – that carriage accident was no accident. Charlotte pries into Brand’s business and learns all this, and soon she horns in on the investigation as well. This means that Brand and Charlotte spend a lot of time together, and their attraction grows.
One Wild Night is one of those perfectly pleasant books that nevertheless doesn’t capture the imagination or linger in the memory. I am finding it a little difficult to say why that is. I expect that this is a book that some will like more than I did, others less; I’m right in the middle of the road.
Perhaps it has something to do with Charlotte’s aggressively modern, detective-story behavior. When she discovers that her beloved grandmother may be in danger, she will help with the investigation, even if it means breaking the law, even if it means posing as Brand’s mistress in public. I could believe this sort of thing, not of a modern woman, but of the heroine of a modern television mystery series like Remington Steele. It strains credibility to believe it of a real human being, much less a gently-reared Regency maiden. It’s hard to believe, too, that Brand would behave with such contempt for the morals and principles of his time, cheerfully destroying the reputation of a woman whom (we are told) he actually cares about. Of course, it was necessary for Charlotte and Brand to adopt these attitudes in order to further the plot, but it didn’t seem real.
Towards the latter third of the book I began liking things a little more – Charlotte, in particular, does something to put Brand in his place that had me cheering. Even so I was not easily swept up in their romance. When the book begins, Brand and Charlotte don’t seem to like one another at all. This is especially true of Brand, who thinks Charlotte a vicious, unprincipled termagant. Soon they’re lusting after one another’s bodies, and then they’re passionately in love. While Charlotte had a history of adoring Brand, Brand never showed anything but impatience and exasperation towards Charlotte, along with a healthy male appreciation for her bosom. His leap into true love seemed sudden and unconvincing.
There’s really nothing annoying or exasperating in One Wild Night , and you could certainly do worse than to pick it up. It is a well-written tale with two interesting protagonists and a mystery. But it utterly fails to stand out from the crowd of other half-decent romances out there. I am certainly not warning you away from One Wild Night – but I can’t quite recommend it, either.