Dear Mrs Beverley,
Once again you manage to take an almost unbelievable plot and get me totally involved in it. This is book four of the Malloren series and truly exemplifies the unofficial Malloren motto: With a Malloren, all things are possible.
Rosa, Lady Overton is in a fix. Well, actually everyone on her husband’s estate is in a potential fix. Sir Digby and Rosa have no children and Digby is in failing health. He is much older than Rosa and married her after she was badly scarred in a carriage accident. If he dies without a child, his estate will be taken over by a nephew who adheres to an extreme religious sect who will make life for the tenants a living hell. Rosa, with Sr Digby’s unspoken consent has set off on a mission to get knocked up at a masquerade ball. Only she chickens out and leaves only to find a drunk man left by the side of the road. Moved by Christian charity she takes him to the dower house of her cousin, the Countess of Arradale. Once there she screws her courage to the sticking point and asks the recovering man for a favor for having saved his life. One night of sex.
Lord Brand Malloren awakes without knowing where he is or who this mysterious masked woman is. But she asks a simple boon and he feels obliged to accommodate her. So simple really and he’s on his way with a debt paid. And, hey, what man would turn down this particular way to pay off a debt? What follows is not just a simple night of passion as Brand senses that his lady is not some cheap, cheating wife off for a fling. She is uncomfortable with this and something is compelling her on to do it. He soon finds himself stirred by her in more ways than one and proposes that he stay another night.
During the next day, Brand and a stilled masked Rosa find they share a common interest in estate management and animal husbandry programs. Each is aware of feelings stirring for the other but it takes the last night to cement them into love. A last night of bedspring breaking, headboard banging, soul searing sex during which Brand desperately tries to convince this mysterious soulmate of his to escape with him. He knows she’s married but he thinks to a neglectful husband who doesn’t truly appreciate the treasure that is his wife. Rosa is in agony at the thought of leaving this man she has swiftly come to love but even if she didn’t truly love her husband, there is still the need to provide him with an heir and keep his estate and tenants out of the fanatical hands of his nephew. Plus she knows who Brand is now and with that comes the knowledge that the son and brother of a marquess can never be for her.
So with the help of her young cousin the countess, she drugs Brand, leaves him for his brother to find and tries to disappear from his life. And almost succeeds. But the Mallorens are tenacious and Rothgar is determined to find this woman who hurt his brother and Brand knows he can’t rest until he has a chance to win the woman of his heart.
I love Brand and Rosa. They are honorable people trying to do the best they can for those who depend on them. Rosa only agreed to try and get pregnant to help her tenants and keep her estate safe. She never looked to find love and even once she’s found it, she renounces it and heads back to her duty. I’ll be honest and say martyr heroines usually leave me cold but Rosa’s reasons are beyond the general “my sisters need a Season and baby brother just has to go to Eton.” Brand never thought to have a night of debt payment lead him to his heart’s delight. And once he knows the stakes involved, he leaves with the determination not to try and take his child. Or create problems for anyone involved. It’s a wild tangle and tests the limits of Malloren ingenuity to work all things toward their end goal but it is managed in the end with a small sacrifice and dignity for all.
I got a better feeling for the people of the Yorkshire dales with this book than with others I’ve read. And once again saw how a bit of it must have been when the aristocracy ruled supreme. Plus got introduced to the two women who have anaged to do the almost impossible: thwart the powerful Marquess of Rothgar. I ended this book salivating at the thought of watching Rothgar and the countess cross swords again. I was kind of bummed that we didn’t have the usual decadent Georgian England upperclasses sex debauchery scene but I guess sex with a masked stranger will have to suffice. There is some running around and a subplot involving the religious sect that got a touch outlandish at times. But, this one is a strong B/B+ for me even with its admitted faults.