Dear Mrs. Beverley,
Book three of the Malloren series takes up right where book two left off. With the Mallorens neck deep in intrigue and sophisticated plots.
Lady Elfred Malloren has been pampered and over protected for all her 25 years by her four brothers. When fate leaves her alone in London with a married friend, she seizes the chance to do something a little wicked. A little wild. And winds up fleeing for her life through the back lanes of Vauxhall Gardens after overhearing part of a Jacobean plot and realizing that one of the speakers is Fortitude Ware, Earl of Walgrave and sworn enemy of all things and people Malloren despite the fact that his sister married a Malloren in My Lady Notorious. He’s also the man Elf has secretly lusted after and teased much to his conventional male distaste.
Fort sees a young woman in disguise who might know more about his affairs than he wants known and hustles her off to his London home for a night (he hopes) of wild sex with no strings attached, as he tells her upfront. But Elf has no intention of submitting and escapes during the night leaving Fort to worry (slightly) about the young woman he thinks is a French gentlewoman. But he’s soon dragged further into the plot to kill the king. A plot he plays along with in order to expose the traitors. But when the mysterious woman reappears and wants to seduce him, Fort plays along there as well which brings the plot to a head. Elf’s brothers arrive and along with Elf and Fort, save the day. Now can Elf convince a man she’s come to love that she might be his chance at lifelong love and happiness. Even though she’s a Malloren and someone who coaxed him into revealing the demons that haunt him?
You continue our tour of bawdy sex in Georgian England with a trip to Vauxhall Gardens. Though, alas, we have to wait a bit for the sex between our hero and heroine. And yes, they really do do it on a coffin at one point. The whole Jacobean plot part of the plot is really a bunch of running around that gives Fort and Elf a chance to be together. I didn’t see it as the main story interest and admit that it is rather weak. What is the focus of the story is watching Elf and Fort heal and grow.
Elf has been sheltered and not allowed to really see what her intelligence and abilities will let her accomplish. She learns some hard life and death lessons about taking charge and I enjoyed watching her rise to the occasion. She does make some mistakes but learns from them and matures into a capable woman. A woman who can make the decision to let Fort go to seek his happiness even if it isn’t with her.
Fort is a typical aristocratic man of the times. Used to being in charge, being obeyed, having wild adventures if he wishes and not having the women in his life create waves. Elf is a blast of fresh air but not always welcome. I enjoyed watching him come to realize that women aren’t just decorative dolls who are there for his pleasure. Fort also has events from earlier books which haunt him. I thought some of that started to sound like an Oprah show at times and wish that we could have seen a little more of his resolution of them. But the scenes where Elf turns courtship on its head and woos Fort, much to his consternation, are sweet and delightful to watch.
It was fun to see some of the earlier characters in this book and a relief to see them actually do something to further the plot and not just stand around giving us a fertility update and gushing about how deliriously happy they are. One thing that puzzled me was the fact that Brand didn’t take an active part in this story as he will be coming up next in the fourth book. But once again, the Mallorens prove that family loyalty is everything and that they will support each other no matter what.
Overall, this one has its weaknesses but still winds up as a strong B for me and further wetted my appetite for the last two books of the series.