The Dangerous Debutante
The Dangerous Debutante, part of the Romney Marsh series, centers on Morgan Becket, the family’s wild child. As the book opens, Morgan is going to London to have a Season sponsored by her brother Chance ( A Gentleman By Any Other Name) and his bride Julia. The consensus of the Beckets is that Morgan’s season will not last long, as she is sure to do something scandalous to upset the ton.
Morgan more than lives up to their expectations, as she doesn’t even make it to London before meeting Ethan, the Earl of Aylesford, at an inn. The two are immediately smitten and before he escorts her to London, he takes her to his estate to meet his eccentric mother. His mother, a countess, was shunned by society because she was a performer, and in their eyes, a gold digger – even though his parents shared a happy marriage. Society’s condemnation doesn’t bother his mother at all, and Ethan also delights in scandalizing the social world. Needless to say, Morgan and Ethan’s mother take an immediate liking to each other.
Ethan has the reputation of being a bored, wild, good-for-nothing among Polite Society – a reputation he carefully cultivates. They tolerate him as he is immensely wealthy. But Morgan sees right through him, which totally disconcerts Ethan and keeps him off-balance for most of the book. When he safely delivers Morgan to her brother Chance, we find out that Ethan is a spy whom Chance had met at the War Department. Chance is not all that reassured when Ethan tells him that he is going to court Morgan in London and plans to marry her. I really enjoyed the male bonding and friendship that developed throughout the book between the two men.
For her part, Morgan realizes that Ethan is the man whom the voodoo priestess Odette (who lives with the Beckets) had predicted she would meet. Like meeting like, or two dangerous people coming together, creates sexual tension, and their chemistry burns on the page. I also enjoyed their often witty dialogue.
One aspect of the book that worked well for me was that it is Morgan who resists the idea of love at first sight. She makes it clear she thinks it is lust, and that they can have a fling, but she is not sure that their relationship would last in the long term. Her resistance to marriage challenges Ethan, but it is not long enough to bore the reader.
After a very short time in London, Ethan announces that they are going to the Beckets’ home, ostensibly for him to ask her adopted father Ainsley for her hand. Morgan quickly determines that Ethan is on a mission for the Crown in Romney Marsh and that he had lied to her about never being in the area. When she confronts him, Ethan decides to trust Morgan and tells her that he needs the Beckets’ help to arrange a meeting with a friend aboard an American ship, where he will deliver a message from the Crown. Ethan and his American friend are desperately trying to prevent war between the two countries, a mission Ainsley Becket rightly believes doomed to failure, but worth trying nonetheless.
Throughout the book, I enjoyed Michaels’ writing style, which is both vivid and humorous. The author also makes good use of Chance and Julia, and they are an interesting enough couple that it was nice seeing them again. One of the book’s high points is when Chance and Ethan bribe the orchestra to play the forbidden waltz and the two couples glide effortlessly around the ballroom as the entire ton watches completely scandalized. Michaels’ writing is so vivid that I could see the couples gliding, dipping and swaying with the music.
Morgan is an interesting heroine, and she grows and changes throughout the book. At one point, she is attacked by a former admirer, and Morgan realizes that her past behavior might be part of the provocation. She realizes that she used her wiles as a beautiful young girl to get her way, without thinking about the effect on the young men in her orbit, and sometimes took advantage of their devotion. It is obvious there is much greater depth to Morgan then she lets others see. Her fear of turning out like her prostitute mother, who sold Morgan to Ainsley Becket, terrifies her. And having read too many books where the hoyden was brought to heel and respectability by the hero and/or her family, it was really enjoyable to have a hero who liked his hoyden lady just the way she was.
From the beginning Ethan was a very likable hero, but what took this book beyond the merely average was Morgan’s growth. Morgan, who at the beginning is just too impulsive and unthinking became quite likable as the story progressed and I found the HEA ending for them was a believable one. This pair were made for each other and watching their headlong fall into love was enjoyable. Michaels fans won’t be disappointed with this one.