Dear Mrs. Beverley,
At last, Rothgar’s story. I think that you did a good job considering the fact that you’d built Beowulf Malloren, the Marquess of Rothgar into an almost superhuman figure over the course of the other four books in this series. He needed a strong woman to balance him and he got it in the person of Diana Westmount, Countess of Arradale.
I do admit to loving Diana in Secrets of the Night. Especially when she manages to best Rothgar not once, but many times over the course of that book. Something that not many men could claim to have done. And I enjoyed the fact that that is what Rothgar freely admits first caught his notice about her. Her strength and courage. She both grows and slightly falters in their book though. The growth comes from her association with Rothgar and seeing the halls and places of power in London. She has exercised power in her own sphere as a peeress in her own right (a rare and, for most men of the time, unsettling creature) but it is not until she sees the glitter and intrigue at court that she both fully comes to appreciate her place in that world and grows up some. As Rothgar says, she had only played games with power before.
She falters in the tendency to become distracted at key moments and moon over Rothgar. Over and over. She knows what is at stake but can’t seem to keep her mind focused. I also hated to see her wings clipped by the constrictions on her actions that occurred over the course of the story. I know that as a Countess in her own right, she had far more officially sanctioned power than most women of the time could even dream of but it still galled my 21st century mind a bit. But this was balanced a bit by her prowess with a pistol and bow. I had to laugh at Rothgar’s exasperation when he asked her “just who was supposed to be protecting whom here.” I wonder if they would ever fence together?
On to Bey. What a dark, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚ ©minence noire. We got to see Rothgar using his power in the previous books but this one showed not only that but also the monumental daily responsibility of his position in the world of Georgian England. It wasn’t all Hellfire clubs and minuets for the great men of the time. The burdens that came with those aristocratic ranks were heavy and Rothgar, with his need to control everything around him, feels that even more than most men. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes view of what was involved with all that and watching him interact with the movers and shakers of the age. The French bit was a trifle silly but I think it served to show that Rothgar was not only important on his own lands and in England but was also a figure of some European influence.
However, I felt that his capitulation to marriage came a bit quickly. He’d fought falling in love and marrying for years and then fought against Diana to the point of pain then, suddenly, voila!, the shell cracked and he was willing to risk marriage and children. Yes, life is a risk, and Diana’s research showed that there weren’t any other loonies in the Malloren family but I didn’t really see anything that might have lessened his fear of passing on insanity. And I would also have liked to have seen him “taken with a violent passion upon that virginal bed” in the fluffy pink and white spouse’s chamber at Arradale.
It was nice to also see the other Mallorens and spouses again even if you did skirt dangerously close to nauseating happiness and fertility moments when the clan first descended on Arradale for Brand and Rosa’s wedding festivities. And we got to (Finally!) meet Hilda and her husband Steen. I was beginning to wonder if they were just collective figments of the Mallorens’ imagination. I think the fact that I originally read this series over a short period of months instead of waiting the nine years it actually took you to write them helped me not to build Rothgar to such mythic proportions and I do feel that you wrote his story in the only way that you could to remain true to his character and the times.
So, while this has both pluses and minuses, they all balanced out to a B grade from me. And for 5 books in an entire series to maintain such high grades is astounding.