The Counterfeit Scoundrel
Lorraine Heath’s The Counterfeit Scoundrel is the first in her new The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction series centering around three heroes “who play to win at any cost.” Marguerite Townsend – Daisy – is a private investigator hired to prove David Blackwood – aka Bishop – is having an affair with her client’s wife and goes undercover as a maid in Bishop’s household to do just that. Along the way, she begins to realize Bishop isn’t the man his reputation suggests he is just as Bishop realizes Daisy isn’t the maid she pretends to be.
Bishop has a reputation amongst the nobility for bedding married women, and only married women. These affairs, however, are as platonic as could be; Bishop doesn’t sleep with any of them and is merely a willing means to an end for women who want their husbands to divorce them. During a first meeting with his latest client, Mrs. Mallard, Bishop is immediately intrigued by his brand new maid, Daisy, and cannot stop thinking about her. Daisy begins snooping through Bishop’s calendar hoping he has spelled out his affairs so she can tell her client and move on to her next case. She works out when her client’s wife – Mrs. Parker – will visit next and prepares to catch her then. Unfortunately, she catches an eye-full of Bishop’s chest and forgets to look at the woman he’s supposedly bedding.
It isn’t long before Bishop figures out that Daisy must be there at the behest of one of his clients’ husbands and acts accordingly, ensuring Daisy catches him kissing Mrs. Parker. Jealous, she dumps a bowl of hot chocolate on his head, but Bishop doesn’t sack her, telling himself it’s because he wants her to tell her client – Mr. Parker – about Bishop’s affair with his wife – although really, it’s because he cannot bear to be parted from Daisy. But when Mrs. Mallard arrives on his doorstep bruised, telling him her husband found out about their ‘affair’ and beat her because of it, Bishop confronts her husband publicly, and punches him, telling him to never hit his wife again. When Mallard is found dead, Bishop is informed he is the prime suspect in the murder, so naturally, he hires Daisy to help exonerate him. Together, they set out to prove his innocence.
If The Counterfeit Scoundrel had been a novella, I would probably have given it a higher grade, but as it is, there isn’t enough story to fill a full-length novel. Having seen his mother killed by his physically abusive father has made Bishop determined to help women escape unhappy marriages, and what he attempts to do for these women is the most interesting thing in the book. But once that took a backseat to the unnecessary murder plot, I lost interest. The murder mystery comes across more as an attempt to stretch the story out and get Daisy and Bishop back together than something that truly pushes the narrative along. The murderer isn’t really a surprise, and the big twist at the end also isn’t really a surprise. In fact, it’s so easy to figure out that it’s laughable. There is also a late-book argument between Bishop and Daisy that comes across as being there just for the sake of allowing them to reconcile.
I will give Ms. Heath applause for having her heroine actually DO the job she has instead of just calling her a private investigator. Even if Daisy is actually quite horrible at it. So horrible at it, in fact, that Bishop is able to discover the truth about her in a remarkably short amount of time. Being a PI is about the only personality Daisy has, at that. I can’t tell you what really interests Bishop in her, as he is drawn to her without ever speaking to her and she doesn’t have anything interesting about her beyond her job and her past.
I generally enjoy Lorraine Heath’s books, so this one is somewhat of a miss for me. The first half starts off strong, but an unnecessary murder mystery with a heroine with no personality drags down the second half. The Counterfeit Scoundrel would have been better as a novella, minus the murder mystery and focusing on Bishop’s career as a professional co-respondent. Regardless, I plan to pick up the next in the series in the hope of a return to form for Ms. Heath.
|Review Date:||March 5, 2023|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction series | Victorian|
Man, LH has hit a major slump, though at least this doesn’t fall into the D-level doldrums she was in before.
Sadly, it seems to be a long-running slump. The last series of hers I thought was really good – DIKs and B+ grades – was the Hellions of Havisham Hall, which came out in 2015/2016. I gave a B to Beyond Scandal and Desire in 2018, but the rest of that series – which I did in audio – was very disappointing.
I liked the Trewluv series a little bit more than most of us did (I can’t remember what I gave the one I reviewed for the site, I think it was a B or a C+) but that was my last favorite series of theirs.
We seem to like Heath less and less over time. I love Waking Up with the Duke but that was the last one I really enjoyed.
She used to be an autobuy for me as well – Waking Up is one of my favourites, too.
Also, I know I read an historical recently where the ‘womanising’ hero was actually helping unhappily married women… I can’t remember what it was called now.