The Scoundrel in her Bed
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Rich girl falls for poor boy. Surrendering to teenaged passion, they make love, then plan to run off and marry. But at the designated hour, girl’s father shows up and tells boy she’s changed her mind. Boy leaves, vowing to hate girl for ever, and girl finds out she’s pregnant.
This is the backstory of Lorraine Heath’s The Scoundrel in Her Bed, wherein the couple reunite years later. I preferred the part of the novel taking place in the present, which, while flawed, was a lot less predictable.
The book begins with Lavinia Kent making her way through mean streets so she can save an infant. Lavinia lives with the Sisters of Mercy and meets baby-farmers at night to take their neglected charges. Then she crosses paths with Finn Trewlove, who quickly realizes that the girl he once knew is now a woman of iron. This is the only romance I have read where the heroine, after being disarmed by the hero, gives him a swift knee to the groin and makes her getaway. Don’t worry, he recovers and doesn’t hold it against her (no pun intended).
Finn was raised by a baby-farmer who actually loved the children she was given, and he has strong ties to both his adoptive mother and his siblings. Lavinia was born to a life of luxury, but now she’s on the run from her own brother. Finn also suffered at her family’s hands, because when their teenaged romance ended, her father had him thrown into prison on false charges.
Now released, he wants revenge on Lavinia. Of course, he can’t help falling for her all over again, even as he realizes that she’s changed a lot and she’s hiding some things from him.
Lavinia has gone through horrible experiences, and those put me solidly on her side, but unfortunately, Finn didn’t captivate me. For one, his plan for the future is to own a gaming hell. Although Finn intends to cater to women, I’m tired of gaming hells. For another, he offers Lavinia partnership in said hell, but she makes it clear that a relationship is off the table.
“There’s no pleasure in taking what isn’t freely given.” He grinned wolfishly. “Doesn’t mean I won’t test you to see where the boundaries are.”
I’m not eager to read about a man who does everything he can to push a woman’s boundaries. Maybe this would have worked if Lavinia had been equally gleeful about it, but after the trauma she previously endured, I just felt uncomfortable.
Of course they end up having sex, but first Finn asks if she has been with anyone since they separated, thinking he’ll kill her former fiancé (now married to Finn’s sister) if Lavinia slept with him. She says no, and turns the question back on him. Naturally, he says yes.
It hurt to know he’d had others, but he was a virile man. She couldn’t have expected him to remain celibate.
The story ends with Lavinia’s new family working on legislation to end the unjust treatment of women and illegitimate children. But what’s the point of trying to usher in a new era of social consciousness when the double standard is upheld by both the hero and heroine? And this aspect of Finn’s sex life was unnecessary. I’ve never read a romance where I thought, ‘Hey, this couple was separated but he didn’t bed numerous nameless women. Now he is less than a man to me!’
The backstory is competently written, but there’s a moment when present-Finn muses that in the past, he didn’t know Lavinia’s thoughts on politics and religion and so on. I wasn’t surprised. When she was seventeen, she didn’t know herself! So despite the moonlit kisses and clandestine meetings, I wasn’t invested in the past-romance. Throughout the flashbacks, I waited for tragedy to befall them, which it did in the usual way, and with the expected outcome.
That said, there were parts of the present-day story I enjoyed. Lavinia is a compelling heroine, and the twist involving the secret baby was very well done. Ultimately though, The Scoundrel in Her Bed didn’t compare to some of Lorraine Heath’s keepers like Always to Remember. It might work for readers who find the hero more endearing, but since I could take him or leave him (and, on occasion, leaned towards leaving), I’m afraid this book fell short for me.