Author: Jo Beverley
Review number: 49
Genre: Historical Romance – Georgian times
Stand Alone/ Series : Book 5 of the Malloren family series. It can be read as a stand alone but I recommend that you read My lady Notorious first , not only because that is a fantastic novel but because there is the introduction of our hero, Rothgar and you don’t want to miss that.
Summary: The Marquess of Rothgar has been haunted all his life by witnessing his mother turn mad and murder his baby sister. With such blood in his veins, he is resolved not to marry, but then he meets Lady Arradale.
Diana, Countess of Arradale is that rarest of creatures, a peeress in her own right, holding extraordinary power and influence for a woman. To marry risks losing her independence, and yet when she meets the Marquess of Rothgar, for the first time she is tempted. She is tempted in a strictly physical way as well, and surely that might be safe when he is the one man in England who does not want to marry her wealth and power.
Both decide it would be wiser to part, but then the king, alarmed by awareness of such a powerful woman loose in his realm, commands Rothgar to escort the countess to London.
Why did I read the book: I absolutely loved My Lady Notorious and was intrigued by Rothgar.
It was love at first sight between Rothgar and…..I.
First time I saw him, in My Lady Notorious, he walked into an orgy dressed up like a Georgian dandy in crimson brocade, crossed a room to a naked woman who was rolling dices and dramatically said: “Your fate has arrived” , then inhaled snuff directly from her foot and a few moments later stole a kiss from his brother’s love. He proceeded to capture my attention by being obviously cold, believing in its own omniscience and omnipresence , one of the most prominent people in England, a close advisor to King George and head of his own powerful family, the Mallorens.
How can one not love such man and want to read his story? I couldn’t help it so,for the very first time, I cheated my way through a series, skipped three books and jumped right into this one expecting great things from Rothgar’s story – we all now that the taller the tree, or the cruelest, coldest the man, the greater the fall.
Bey Malloren, Marquess of Rothgar lives by the family motto: Anything is possible for the Mallorens. Except for one small, tiny bitsy thing – Rothgar has vowed never to marry because he believes he should never have children. When he was a toddler he witnessed his mother killing his baby sister and then kill herself. He believes the madness taunts his genes and he can never pass that down his ancient lineage. Which is not a problem to him , he has plenty of half-brothers (from his father’s second marriage, therefore untainted) to carry on the family blood , but then he meets his soul mate Diana Westmont, Countess of Arradale .
Diana, is a powerful woman in her own right, bearer of a title without ever having been married, with a wonderful brain, fluent in several languages and a wicked shot. She too, has vowed never to marry so that her title will remain in her family and herself will remain independent – remember, in Georgian times a woman belongs to her husband. But the King has other plans for her and commissions Rothgar to bring her down to London so that she can choose a husband or have one chosen for her by the King himself. Having changed her mind about not ever marrying because she has fallen in love with Rothgar, this trip is now the thing she fears the most, because her mind and her heart are set on Rothgar and as her Greek namesake, she decides to hunt. But will Rothgar ever be able to go back in his word and contemplate a future together?
And that is the basic conflict of the story – they respect and love each from pretty much the get go and they are fully aware that they are two halves of one whole and that by not being together they are condemning themselves to a life of unhappiness. I can not really fault the romance or the story or the historical background – again Jo Beverley does a splendid job at bringing Georgian world to life. She is a masterful storyteller. But the hero in this novel could have been named John, Smith, or any such generic name. There were hardly any outstanding actions from his part, hardly any of his scenes in the grand theatre of society. It was not the unique Rothgar I knew from My Lady Notorious, it was like everything I could expect from his story went through the drain – maybe it was really difficult to live up to the expectations – I mean, how to surpass such an entrance?
And the worst thing is: everything we know about Rothgar in Devilish, how good he really is, how much he has sacrificed for the good of his family , we know from Diana’s point of view. We know because she realizes that. Instead of fearing the man, she pities him, she wants to give him life, which was fine by me, by all means. That was what I wanted to. But I wished we had known this from his own mind or his own words. 90% of the book is from Diana’s point of view and even though I love her and she is the true heroine here, the sole reason I picked up this book was so that I could read him, Rothgar himself.
What I am going to say next will sound like I am whining and nitpicking, specially because this book is far from being bad, it is well written, well researched, the secondary plot is really engaging , it has all the necessary things to make it a fantastic read. But for this particular hero I needed something else. I needed him to experience something similar to a Derek Craven succumbing factor . To lose control. He never does. Hence my disappointment. I wanted him to come crumbling down, to be washed up by love, punched in the gut with need, to have his innards shaken.
(There is a part of me though , that thinks that in some ways his love story is very fitting. That what he truly needed was to have Diana to conquer him, to have someone else do all the work, to prove to him that he was not infallible whilst at the same time keeping him as he was, the one and only Marquess of Rothgar, omniscient, omnipresent, powerful but now with some very deserved lady of his own. And I have read some very positive reviews, so maybe it is just old silly me?)
I am sure long standing readers of the Malloren family or even new readers to the series will like this. As I did. Just thought Rothgar deserved more. If I had got that extra oomph that I was hoping for , this could have been easily a 8 or even a 9. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
There is a very disturbing scene in the book where Diana is almost raped by one of her suitors. The whole thing was too close for comfort but I could have lived if with it if it had stopped there. But later there is an even more disturbing scene where Diana asks a very uncomfortable Rothgar to REENACT the attempt of rape so that she could get rid of her fears. Please. That was completely over the top and unnecessary to the storyline, in my opinion.
Additional Thoughts: At the beginning of the novel Diana and Rothgar find an Automaton tucked away at her house, which had been given to her as child by her father.
Automata are self-operating machines with origins in ancient Greece – non-electronic moving machines, made to resemble human or animal actions and that were the rave of the time they lived in.
Diana’s automaton was a reproduction of herself as a boy, a horrible reminder from her father that her mother failed to produce a male heir. The things brings back sad memories to Diana and Rothgar, who collects such machines, is more than happy to take it away from her. He takes the thing to his own home, where he arranges for it to be serviced and cleaned as a present to the king. But before he sends it away, he spends some time looking at the “boy” wondering at the choices he made in life and thinking that perhaps, that was the only “child” he and Diana would share. These moments were very sad, poignant and eerie and the culmination of Jo Beverley’s masterful storytelling – it combines deeply emotional considerations with the historical research of something very particular to that time. Brilliant.
Here is a photo of an automaton:
Verdict: It is not the best romance novel that you can find, certainly not better than My Lady Notorious. But followers of the Malloren family book cannot miss it. There are moments of utter brilliance though.
Rating: a tentative 7 , because the historical setting is amazing and very well researched and Diana is a fantastic heroine but in the end Rothgar’s story is not all that it could have been.
Reading next: Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair