The Governess, the third book in Christi Caldwell’s Wicked Wallflowers series, features Broderick Killoran, owner of The Devil’s Den gaming hell, and his assistant Regina – Reggie – Sparks. Broderick rescued Reggie one night ten years earlier after she ran from an abusive lover, and for those ten years, Reggie has been in love with Broderick. Broderick, on the other hand, has thought of and treated Reggie as “practically another sister”.
The story begins with Broderick’s desperate search through the slums of Seven Dials for Walsh, the man who used to help Broderick rescue orphaned children and provide them with employment and a safe place to live. Now though, Broderick has discovered that one of the boys Walsh brought to him – Stephen – is actually the son of the Marquess of Madden, and the Marquess is out for revenge for his son’s kidnap. Broderick had hoped to prove that Walsh was the guilty party but Walsh has convinced the Marquess of Broderick’s guilt.
At the same time Broderick is searching Seven Dials, Reggie has tracked Stephen to the West End, but before they can safely return to the Devil’s Den, Reggie is injured by a horse.
When Broderick returns and finds Reggie injured, he tends her wounds, realizing at the same time that he has never been this close to her – holding her face, letting her hair down, smelling her scent – and he finds himself suddenly lusting after her. He is disgusted with himself – Reggie is his employee and he has vowed never to trifle with employees. He pushes his feelings aside and concentrates on the immediate threat to his family – the Marquess’ promise to have Broderick hanged. Broderick feels a desperate urge to make sure his family and employees are protected from Madden and if the worst comes to the worst, that they will be financially secure. Broderick decides his first task should be to get his unmarried sister wed and to do this, he needs Reggie’s help.
Reggie, however, has her reasons for refusing to place herself in the vicinity of the ton. She realizes her love for Broderick is only going to bring her more pain and has secret plans to leave the Devil’s Den and set up a Musical Theatre – a Musical Theatre that will give women a chance to make a fair living not on their backs. When Broderick finds out about Reggie’s plans he is angry and feels betrayed – and when she refuses to tell him more about her reasons for wanting to leave him it only makes those feelings of betrayal more acute. When Reggie attempts to buy space near the Devil’s Den, Broderick snaps and works to undermine her plans. He buys the space before Reggie can and only agrees to sell it to her (at a higher price) if she acts as his sister’s companion for the season. Reggie is caught.
As she predicted, Reggie’s return to the ton leads to disaster and she is forced to confront the man who sought to destroy her ten years ago. And Broderick is forced to decide if he wants to stick to his ‘no affairs with employees’ rule or pursue the woman he is becoming increasingly fascinated with. And in the meantime, the Mad Marquess continues to threaten Broderick – “Tick Tock. Tick Tock. The end is coming!”
I had several problems with this book. I know it’s the third in a series, but the author includes little background about Broderick’s ‘family’ and how it came to be, and I found myself feeling a little lost from time to time. It was also difficult to believe that Broderick would actively work against Reggie given their ten years as friends and confidantes, and Reggie’s Musical Theatre scheme seemed really unlikely. The author’s attempts at ‘authenticity’ in the dialogue meant there were a lot of a lot of ‘nays’ and ‘mayhaps’ in direct speech, and every time these appeared I was taken out of the narrative. And when Broderick and Reggie finally have a passionate interlude, it is on a piano bench and “the clanging dissonant melody” of the keys is mentioned SIX times. I wanted to yell – ‘get away from the piano!!’
My biggest problem with the story though, was that I couldn’t believe that the Marquess of Madden wasn’t rushing out to meet his long-lost son but was instead spending an inordinate amount of time crafting threatening notes to Broderick – and rather lame ones at that. Reggie offers an explanation near the end of the book – that the Marquess was worried he wouldn’t know how to father Stephen after all this time – but I didn’t buy it.
Despite these flaws, I liked Broderick and Reggie. Reggie is smart and determined but also compassionate. And Broderick is more than the misunderstood, stubborn, brooding gaming hell owner we normally see portrayed in romance novels. He’s devoted to his family and he’s willing to be vulnerable, and his character was a refreshing spin on the ‘gaming hell owner trying to break into the nobility’ type. If you enjoyed the other books in this series, then you may well enjoy this one, but I had too many issues with it to be able to give it a recommendation.