The Defiant One
Danelle Harmon’s newest, The Defiant One, is a lot of fun. I sat down with it on a Saturday afternoon and finished it on the same day. It’s a delightful romantic comedy with compelling characters and a crazy “mad scientist” plot. Believable? It’s about as believable as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Frankenstein’s Monster and the scientific explanations are at the same level. Don’t expect realism from this book. Do expect to laugh and be carried along with a crazy romantic tale.
The story opens when scientist Lord Andrew de Montforte accidentally discovers an aphrodisiac. Not long afterward he receives an unexpected visitor. Lady Celsiana Blake bursts into his bedroom demanding to see his laboratory. Lady Celsiana is a serious bluestocking spinster and a lover of animals. She has been told that Lord Andrew is conducting cruel scientific experiments. Lord Andrew is so annoyed that he wraps himself in a blanket and takes her to his lab, where Celsie sees that she has been mislead. They soon get into a conversation about the aphrodisiac. Celsie would like to use some to breed her favorite horse. When Andrew refuses, because the horse might be hurt, Celsie swallows some herself (to prove that the stuff is harmless.) Uh-oh. In no time the aroused virgin Celsie is climbing all over Andrew’s reluctant person touching his most private parts. He protests! He resists! But, as they say in romance novels, he has been “too long without a woman.” She overcomes him and ravishes him.
(Psst – Aren’t romance novels great? Don’t you wish real life was like this?)
After Celsie has had her wicked way with Lord Andrew, and he is limp and blanketless on the floor, the couple are surprised by Andrew’s older brother, Lucien, the Duke of Blackheath, and Celsie’s brother Gerald. Come on, you knew this was going to happen. Didn’t you?
This is just the start of the adventures of two reluctant lovers brought together by Andrew’s persistent brother, Lucien. What comes next is a duel in which Celsie herself takes part, another round of unexpected lovemaking, and a compromising situation brought on by the couple themselves. Andrew and Celsie constantly protest that they don’t want to be married. Unwittingly they become good friends while in the process of trying to avoid marriage.
This is not one of those “I hate you – lets have sex” books though; the couple’s first incident of lovemaking is a kind of hilarious parody of one. Andrew and Celsie actually have a lot in common. Both are outsiders in society; serious people who never expected to find a mate to share their interests. Andrew is used to women looking sleepy the minute he begins to discuss his inventions. People laugh at Celsie’s concern about cruelty to animals. This common ground reveals itself early on, but there is another problem. Andrew is worried about his health and doesn’t wish to explain his problem. He has “spells.” His shame and fear keep him out of Society. The more attracted he becomes to Celsie, the more afraid he is to tell her, fearing that she will be disgusted when she understands his unexplained behavior.
As for Celsie, she was very plain when she first went into Society. Now an heiress, she distrusts men because they rejected her before she had money. Celsie has a good heart though, and once she knows she will be Andrew’s wife, she tells him that she “will pull her own weight and his too if necessary.” This is a woman who understands that love means total acceptance. When Andrew realizes that Celsie loves him completely and will never turn him away, it is a genuinely moving moment.
While The Defiant One was great fun, annoying anachronisms sometimes pulled me out of the story. I knew that I was not reading a historically realistic book, but Harmon has a character joking about “dog germs” in 1777. Huh? Germ theory didn’t come along until almost a hundred years later. In another scene a character responds to someone contradicting him with the 1990s phrase “Whatever.” As Charlie Brown would say “AARRRGGGHHH.”
Fans of the two previous books in this series will enjoy seeing Gareth and Juliet from The Wild One and Amy and Charles from The Beloved One. As in both those books the compelling Duke of Blackheath pulls the strings and manipulates the two lovers into marriage. Lucien is very much in the tradition of Jo Beverley’s Rothgar and is just as compelling. The epilogue of The Defiant One contains a cliffhanger that will play out in Lucien’s story. I can hardly wait.