The Rake to Rescue Her
This book is the third title in Julia Justiss’ Ransleigh Rogues series and is probably the best of the lot. I reviewed the second book in this series and the “Rogues” sobriquet got on my nerves just a bit. But the “Rogues” aspect was toned down a bit in this installment and I think that was a good decision on Ms. Justiss’ part. Some things are just a little too cheesy to stomach.
Alastair Ransleigh fell in love with Diana over eight years ago and was certain they would marry. On the night that Alastair believed she would accept his suit and their betrothal would be announced, Diana arrived at the ball on the arm of the Duke of Gaveston. Alastair is shocked and very hurt. Diana had given him no indication there was another suitor and he was sure she was as in love with him as he was with her. The only logical explanation he could come up with was Diana was more materialistic than he believed and that she threw his love away for money and a title. Fast-forward eight and a half years and Alastair is visiting his sister in Bath when he suddenly comes across Diana and her son in the park. Alastair is with his nephew at the time and of course the nephew wants to make friends with Mannington, Diana’s son by the Duke of Gaveston. Alastair realizes that he is not over Diana after the meeting in the park and now that she is a widow, he wants what she denied him – her body.
Diana never quite got over her love for Alastair Ransleigh, but after eight years of hell, she is not sure that she can be a wife to any man. Forced into a marriage with a cruel and abusive husband, Diana still bears the emotional scars from the relationship. When she sees Alastair again after her husband dies, Diana knows she owes him an explanation, but not the entire truth. When Alastair asks her to become his mistress, Diana shocks him when she readily agrees. Alastair thinks once he has her, he can finally get Diana out of his system, but she is not the same carefree beauty he fell in love with. There is a darkness about her and a part of herself she keeps separate during their affair. Of course, Alastair is determined to have all of her, so he keeps pushing for the truth.
This story is really wonderful for the most part. There is a poignancy about it that tears at the heart strings. Alastair could have been an ass (and he most likely meant to be one), but he realizes early on that Diana has been badly wounded. Getting her to reveal why and how she has been wounded is the crux of the story. The timing the author uses to reveal Diana’s painful past is not drawn out, but realistic enough not to fall into the big mistake trope. This reader almost felt like I was in the hero’s head and as anxious to discover her secret as was Alastair. Diana as a tragic figure could have been drawn as an extreme character, but Ms. Justiss had a deft touch in her characterization so she does not become a caricature of an abused spouse. And Alastair is extremely likeable once you get past his impulsive decision to use Diana sexually to get her out of his system; he is compassionate and patient.
The one problem I had with the book was Diana’s relationship with her son Mannington. As the mother of three children, I cannot even imagine a situation where I might try to distance myself from my child even if that child were in danger. That part of the story just did not ring true to the character Ms. Justiss created. However, that is a minor quibble and the rest of the story was enough to keep me reading straight through. So if you are hungry for a good Regency story, I would recommend this book.