Reckless in Pink
I’ve read all three of the previous books in Lynne Connolly’s Emperors of London series and enjoyed them to differing degrees. The historical setting of a troubled England in the 1750s is utilised well and the author’s understanding of the difficult political situation of the time (with the Hanoverian monarchy still looking over its shoulder at the remaining Stuart claimants to the throne) and her descriptions of the fashion and customs of the day are all very good; but there’s been something missing in the romances in the last couple of books. With Reckless in Pink, however, the series has hit its stride. It’s the best book so far.
Major Viscount Dominic St. Just has served his time in the army, and, following the deaths of the cousins he regarded as “back up” heirs to his father’s earldom, has left military service in order to fulfil his duties to his title and family. But as his army service included more than standing on a battlefield waiting to be shot at, his superiors at Whitehall ask him to undertake one covert last mission for them. They have received information that Charles Stuart (the “Young” Pretender) is in London and want Dominic to spy on him and keep them apprised of his whereabouts and activities. A loyalist and a pragmatist, Dominic fully understands the political tightrope at present being walked by the monarchy and government and agrees to provide whatever information he can.
On his way home, he is waylaid by an acquaintance and finds himself being introduced to the man’s twin sisters, one of whom the vivacious Lady Claudia, immediately draws his attention.
Lady Claudia Shaw is a member of one of the most powerful families in the country, collectively known as the Emperors of London, staunch supporters of the monarchy and sworn enemies of the Jacobite cause. She is also a bit of a handful; at twenty-four she is unmarried and her propensity for behaving incautiously sees her frequently teetering on the brink of respectability. Dominic is immediately smitten and begins to pay court to her in earnest; one of his duties as heir to an earldom involves marriage and begetting future heirs, and here is a woman who is both suitable and tempting.
The attraction between them burns bright until Dominic makes a discovery that changes his entire perspective – and may indeed change his life irrevocably. He has long been aware that his parents have been keeping secrets from him; in fact the uncovering of one of them is what sent him running from home and into the army in the first place. Confronting them with his suspicions that they are Jacobite sympathisers produces evidence of an entirely different nature, irrefutable facts about his origins that could threaten not only his own life, but those he holds most dear and many, many more.
I enjoyed this book as much for its historical elements as I did for the romance, which is developed much more strongly and at a more sensible pace than I found in the earlier books. While Dominic and Claudia do suffer a serious case of insta-lust, Ms Connolly doesn’t throw them into bed together immediately and takes her time developing their relationship and allowing the reader to get to know them as characters. Dominic is perhaps the more rounded of the pair, presented as a deeply honourable man who becomes conflicted when everything he had believed himself to be is suddenly turned upside down. But through it all, Claudia is his anchor, and even though he worries about endangering her, she convinces him that they will be stronger together and with the backing of the Emperors.
Various members of Claudia’s extended family have key roles to play here, most notably the commanding and unflappable Julius, Earl of Winterton, and Claudia’s twin brothers Val and Darius. If you haven’t read the previous books, it might be a little tricky to keep them all straight, but on the whole, this book does work as a standalone. The story is a strong one and kept me (figuratively) turning the pages as the plot thickened and I particularly enjoyed the family dynamic Ms Connelly has created and the way the Emperors all rally round to stand behind Dominic and Claudia.
My main criticism of the previous book, Danger Wears White was that it didn’t deliver when it came to the romance. Fortunately, that’s not true of Reckless in Pink which is much more satisfying on that front, and is definitely worth a look if you like a good dose of history with your romance.