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A few years ago I attended RomCon in Denver, Colorado. It was the first year of the conference and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet many authors (both known and unknown to me), as well as other readers of the genre. I went home with a car full of books (yes, we drove all the way from Connecticut) and this book was in the goodie pile from the event. It took me a long time to take the plunge and give historical romance a try, which is why I'm only just now getting to this book.
The book's premise was interesting. Colonel Phineas Bromley has been urgently requested to come back to his family's estate. He's been fighting Napoleon in Spain and France for the past 10 years, following a tragic accident that left his older brother, William, paralyzed from the waist down. His younger sister, Beth, is forever trying to get her family back together and (we find out later) a series of incidents at the family's estate has her concerned. The girl next door, Alyse Donnelly, has also returned, although under much different circumstances. Due to a scandal involving her former fiance, Alyse has been taken in by her cousin Richard and his mother, who constantly remind her how lucky she is that she has them providing a roof over her head.
This book was a bit of a divergence for me, because I generally read funny romances, both historical and contemporary. There were a few instances when I wasn't sure if I cared what happened in the end. The story was interesting, the mystery/suspense added a layer to the story, but the action scenes and the romance was very lukewarm. I guess I just wanted more of something. Alyse was an interesting character, but she seemed very timid and almost vanilla at times. I wanted to see more of why Phin was attracted to her. The scenes with these two were interesting, but I didn't feel the spark, at least not the way I wanted to. I was also a little confused why there was a scandal with Alyse in the first place. Perhaps reading more historicals might help me understand social norms of the time better, but I didn't get why she couldn't just move on after fiance #1 was out of the picture. Her character was certainly billed as one that could have anyone she wanted.
Phin and William's relationship also confused me, but I won't ruin the plot for anyone interested in reading the book. I just didn't get their dynamic, and Beth's motivation for getting Phin involved in the family concerns was also a little weird. She wanted his help, but she didn't want to tell him that she needed it. The villains in the book were good, and I especially enjoyed The Frenchman. He was a very interesting twist that I would have enjoyed reading more about. The book also seemed to wrap up relatively quickly, with much suspense at the end of the book that might have worked better if it was spread throughout the book. I just wanted more with this book: more drama, more action, more romance, and more villains.
Overall, it was a good read and I may give other books by this author a shot. I checked the characters for the other books in this series (The Notorious Gentleman) and it looks like some of the characters from this book don't get together that I thought might in the future. This book is actually the second book of the three, but I didn't feel like I missed anything by not reading After The Kiss first.
Review by Guest Reviewer
It Was a Scandal Waiting to Happen . . .
Colonel Phineas Bromley is a legend—on the battlefield and in the bedroom. Though he's won many wars, and even more hearts, nothing could prepare him for his new life. When Phin discovers that someone has been pushing his family toward ruin, he assumes the role of a legendary highwayman. Riding out in the middle of the night, hidden behind a mask, Phin heads straight into trouble . . . and into the arms of the ravishing girl next door.
Coming face-to-face with a masked man did not frighten Alyse Donnelly as it should have. Instead, she finds him rather dashing. But her foolish heart has led her into trouble before, and helping a fugitive may mean jeopardizing her own plans, no matter how enticing his kisses. Now, as the danger grows, Alyse must make a choice between freedom . . . and the chance for true love.
Avon. July 29, 2008