Desert Isle Keeper
The Duke of Slut is such an oft-reviled character that many romance readers have taken to avoiding these so-called heroes like the plague. However, when a Duke of Slut is drawn with a touch more depth and subtlety (a bit of shame and humility don’t hurt either) and if he meets a heroine who confronts his past head-on and refuses to be a doormat, something magical can happen.
Unquestionably, James Lindford, Viscount Farley, has a most ignoble past. But despite the fact that he has fathered at least three children out of wedlock, he gains the reader’s respect from the very beginning, not only by acknowledging his children, but by taking them into his home to provide them with a suitable upbringing. Even though this decision costs him his fiancée, he refuses to politely pretend his children do not exist, making this soon-to-be-reformed rake bent on being a family man even before he meets the heroine.
Driven from London by the scandal, the Viscount retreats to Farley Park, his country home. There he meets his neighbor, farmer’s daughter Phoebe Churchill, who takes an interest in Farley’s children even as she is repulsed by the actions of the man himself. However, as she spends more time with his offspring, she also spends more time with Farley and, not surprisingly, they begin to fall in love. Phoebe, raised by a repressive (to say the least) mother, is tortured by her attraction to Farley – especially since the Viscount has not quite completed his reformation process, leaving the course of true love to not always run smooth.
What really made this book for me were the characters and their chemistry. Kind, sensible Phoebe and the slightly wild, but also kind Lindford are both sympathetic characters. I found it very enjoyable to watch both of them grow as people and to watch the sparks fly between them. Unlike characters in some of those “taming of the rake” romances that I’ve read, these two actually talk about Farley’s past and come to terms with it. His reformation is a work in progress, never a fait accompli that the reader must simply take on faith. Sometimes this journey can be downright agonizing to watch, but there is a truth about it that kept me turning the pages.
Becnel also excels at creating a setting for her characters. Her English village and Farley Park seem like real places. You can see Farley getting to know and love his children there and really get a picture of what Phoebe’s life was like both before and after meeting Farley. Even though there is not a lot of detailed place description, Becnel evokes her setting simply by letting us into the lives of her characters as they go about their daily business.
While A Dove at Midnight is a favorite of mine, it has been a while since I read Rexanne Becnel. After reading this novel, I will certainly be checking out her backlist.