|Although she has written a dozen previous books, Celeste Bradley is a “new-to-me” author. I knew she had written a number of well received novels and looked forward reading Devil in My Bed. I was a wee bit disappointed. While this is a perfectly acceptable romance, it simply did not sustain my interest. There was about it what I call the “of course” quality. I’ll try to explain what I mean below.
First, let me describe the concept of this first book in what Bradley calls her “Runaway Brides” series. One day Aidan de Quincy, Earl of Blakenship and Sir Colin Lambert encounter an unusual person on the steps of Brown’s Club for Distinguished Gentlemen where they both stay while in London, a lovely young lady. Well, actually, a lovely little lady. She informs the two men that her name is Melody, that her nurse has left her there because her father lives in the house, and that she wants a kitten.
Since most of the denizens of Brown’s are doddering old men, Aidan and Colin are hard put to imagine who could have sired this sprite. She appears to be about three years old and the note pinned to her coat states that since the money from her mother has stopped coming, her father must provide for her support. The two men conclude that the father must be their dear friend Jack who has been out of the country. Unwilling to consign Melody to an orphanage, they decide to smuggle her into Brown’s until Jack’s imminent arrival back in England.
But Aidan begins to wonder about Melody’s parentage. Around about the possible time of her conception, he had been involved in a torrid affair with a lovely widow. He had been so in love that he had insisted that Madeline marry him but when she refused, he had broken off with her. Could Melody be his and Madeline’s child? So he sets of to find his onetime mistress.
Madeline Chandler has been hiding from her past in London for the past three years and more. That past had forced her to reject Aidan’s offer of marriage, though she loved him deeply. Now that past has caught up with her. Just as it looks as if she will be dragged back into that horror, Aidan shows up at her door and spirits her away. When she discovers that he believes that she is Melody’s mother, she has no choice but to agree. She desperately needs protection and a place to hide. So Aidan takes her to Brown’s and begins making plans for the future.
The “of course” quality shows up at this point. Of course, Madeline falls for Melody. Of course, hiding a woman and a little girl in a club where the female sex never treads leads to some pretty funny situations. Of course, the fire between Madeline and Aidan rekindles. Of course, the danger to Madeline reappears. Of course, she is forced to confess her deceptions to Aidan. Of course, he reacts angrily. Of course, the heroine finds herself in grave peril. Of course, she is rescued in the nick of time. Of course, the villain meets his just desserts.
Perhaps I am being unfair. After all, there is an “of course” quality to all genre fiction. And Devil in Her Bed is not without its moments. The havoc wrought by a three year old imp in a gentleman’s club is amusing. The willful blindness of the old members and the staff is charming. The suspense about Madeline’s fate is intriguing.
But I did have my problems with the behavior of the hero and heroine. I am not one of those readers who objects to the so-called “big misunderstanding” plot device. I know enough about human nature to understand that this kind of behavior is all too common in relationships. But the nature of Madeline’s secret was so horrendous that it should have been possible for her to tell Aidan her story when he asked her to marry him. And when she does finally confess the truth, his reaction was, I fear, a bit unheroic.
This fact, combined with what I feel is a certain predictability in the plot, left me disappointed. Devil in My Bed is an acceptable romance, but not one I can recommend wholeheartedly.