It Takes a Hero, part of Boyle’s Danvers Family Tree series of books, appears from the beginning to be a very appealing, yet lazy, afternoon’s read. The debutantes of 1816 London have sworn never to get married. This pact comes at the heels of the latest release in the very popular “Miss Darby” book series. The heroine lost the love of her life during a war battle and in her state of grief she swears to never to marry as long as she lives. The young girls of society have decided to wear black arm bands in mourning for the lost fictional character and vow to never marry as well. This pact has mothers all across London up in arms. The author of the “Miss Darby” books is a mystery that no one has been able to solve. That’s because Rebecca Tate hides in the small town of Bramley Hollow, writes under a false name and doesn’t want to be found.
Raphael “Rafe” Danvers is hired by one of society’s mothers, the Countess of Tottley, to track down the author and convince him or her to stop writing these scandalous books. Rafe had been working on a much more important case - the Codlin murder, which brings a large monetary reward that Rafe needs in order to pay his rent and debts. But he gives in to the persuasive Countess, who offers a mansion and property to persuade the author, and heads to Bramley Hollow where his information leads him to believe the author is hiding.
Rafe makes the acquaintance of Rebecca Tate immediately upon his arrival in the small town. He lets it be known that he intends to find the author of the Miss Darby books, but under the premise of having some papers to deliver. She doesn’t believe him and tries desperately to hide her secret, despite the fact that they keep bumping into each other, usually under very intriguing circumstances. Eventually the legendary matchmaker of Bramley Hollow gets involved and a romance begins to bud, even against their wishes.
Ultimately, the story becomes a fully involved adventure with twists that rock the foundation of what you thought was the plot. After passing the half-way point, there was no putting the book down until it was finished. The story was much more exciting than I anticipated from the beginning.
The matter of the debutantes of society wanting to swear off marriage forever was quite a stretch as far as plausibility goes. But the opening scene has several of the girls, who’ve been following the Miss Darby stories for two years, reading the latest book in the dark of night in secret and swooning over the characters, with whom they’ve obviously become enamored over time. Their pact was initially conceivable as a “girlish” measure of rebellion, to which anyone who remembers their teenage years could probably relate.
The mothers’ reactions to the swearing off of marriage by their daughters were more of a puzzle. One would expect the mothers to just put their foot down and demand their daughters come to their senses and then maybe punish them until they submit. By the time it gets out of hand, the story begins to dwell on other aspects of the plot and the pact is mostly forgotten until the end. Just when you really do begin to think it quite ridiculous, the problem is solved.
Additionally, it would have been nice for the “suspects” involved in the mystery to have been better developed. For that matter, it would have been nice to have another one or two pop up so that you were really left guessing toward the end. There were only two plausible suspects and it didn’t matter which did it because they were both loathsome characters.
The romance between Rebecca and Rafe blooms in the midst of the adventures taking place, so it is exciting simply for that reason. Rebecca is not a young debutante under the thumb of a society mother, so it leaves her with freedom to get into some situations that are amusing and sometimes sexy. And Rafe is not a typical gentleman, so he’s prone to mischief and daring situations as well.
If you’re able to suspend your sense of logic temporarily and allow for some storyteller‘s license, you may find that It Takes A Hero is well worth the read.