The Knave of Hearts
This book is the fifth offering in Elizabeth Boyle’s Rhymes With Love series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. The Knave of Hearts was a good little book that was entertaining enough, but will not make my keeper shelf.
Lavina Tempest and her twin sister Louisa (who was the heroine in The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane) have come to London to have their debut in society. Since Lavinia’s mother deserted her father (and her two daughters) resulting in a huge scandal when Lavinia was a child, she has made it her life’s mission to follow society’s rules. All she ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and live a quiet life in the country. All of the rule following in the world cannot make Lavinia graceful though and things have a tendency to get broken whenever she is about.
Alaster “Tuck” Rowland doesn’t have the best reputation in the world. Whispers of his being a coward by abandoning his friends when they went to fight Napoleon follow him wherever he goes. But he is Lord Charleton’s heir, so he is still received at society functions. While at Almack’s, he asks Lavinia Tempest to dance. Little does he know that she doesn’t dance…EVER. Dancing has led to disaster every time she has attempted it, but she does dance with Tuck. During this dance, Tuck sees his estranged best friend, Viscount Wakefield, engaged in a fight with a mutual enemy. Not thinking, Tuck abandons Lavinia on the floor to go to his aid. Without Tuck to anchor her, Lavinia falls, and takes half of Almacks with her. With that fall, all of society’s doors slam in her face. Tuck does not realize just what he has done until he ends up making a bet for one thousand pounds that he can redeem Lavinia’s standing in society and make her an Original.
This book’s timeline takes place simultaneously with that of the previous book in the series and we get a few snippets of Louisa’s involvement with Viscount Wakefield. Although it is not necessary to have read the other books in the series, the two appear to be complimentary. Lavinia and Tuck are fairly well drawn characters and I liked both, but I never quite bought into Tuck being the knave the title suggests, even given his reckless wager with the villain of the story. Other than his being a bit of a sot and veiled references to his cowardice, he just never fit that mold. So there was really no redemption in that area as none was needed. Even his big mistake in leaving Lavinia alone on the dance floor was done with pure, if somewhat skewed by alcohol, motives. All of the remaining encounters with Lavinia were characterized by Tuck trying to restrain himself from succumbing to Lavinia’s charms and pretty much acting the gentleman.
Lavinia was a little bit more of a hoot. Her banter back and forth with her twin Louisa was actually some of the best dialogue of the story. I did buy into her relationship with Tuck, but I wanted to bang my head against the wall waiting for him to come to the point. It just took too long and seemed a little contrived. Still, Elizabeth Boyle is a good writer and even a flawed book by her is worth your time.