Vexing the Viscount by Emily Bryan
(Leisure, $6.99, R)  ISBN 08439-6134-1
I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  I actually contemplated giving it a recommendation. But in the end, there were just too many of the wrong things and too little of what I enjoyed.  Vexing the Viscount is vexing indeed.

What is right: two characters that when playing no roles and just being with each other, create a fun, exciting and often romantic setting. Daisy Drake, who is way too modern for the era of the mid-1700’s, is still a delightful heroine. She is smart and wants so much more than just marriage. She, in fact, is 21 and quite on the shelf. Her goal is to be allowed entry into the Antiquities Society, but that all-male bastion has refused her membership application many many times. Lucian Beaumont, Viscount Rutland, is a member of that society but he also refuses to allow that Daisy may have a brain. However, once they connect and work together, they are truly equals. Their repartee is engaging and their lovemaking very hot and explicit. Lucian is reasonable and loves that the private Daisy can be so seductive. Sadly, the plot they find themselves embroiled is not as stellar as their relationship.

Daisy is the daughter of an Earl, and is living in London with her great-aunt by marriage, who happens to be a retired courtesan married to a peer of the realm. Aunt Isabella and her maid, Nan, allow Daisy to attend a masquerade dressed as a famous French madame, Blanche Latour.  Her goal is to meet Lucian and convince him to let her be his silent partner, with Daisy as her visible agent. But things take a unique turn. 

Lucian is looking for an investor to help him find a buried Roman treasure that his research has uncovered. He is hoping the money will restore his family to great riches and help his father finally get over what he deemed his failure. Lucian’s father, with the refusal of help from Daisy’s uncle, went almost bankrupt and his failed investment created quite a scandal, one which he still blames on Daisy’s family. Lucian refused Daisy when she openly offered help. But he is entranced by “Madame LaTour” and not only does he take her as his partner, he sets up time to be tutored in the art of love. Lucian, you see, is a virgin and he wants to learn all he needs from a woman who promises to teach him more than he could ever learn on his own.  Daisy, aka Blanche, plans to learn what she needs to know with the help of Blanche’s diary, one that is quite explicit in the how-to of lovemaking.

There are multiple plots moving along at the same time. Daisy and Lucian look for the treasure by day while Daisy masquerades as Blanche with Lucian at night. Lucian realizes that others are looking for the treasure too, and he uncovers a plot to overthrow the king that may involve his drunken father.  And finally, there is the love story as Lucian and Daisy realize they are falling in love.

There was a lot of the story that was hard to buy. Lucian as a virgin and Daisy as an innocent being able to play the courtesan was just one of them. The plot line of the treasure was satisfactory until the plot to overthrow the king thrown in. Every artifact that they discovered was erotic in nature, and this got quite old after a little while – one phallic joke goes a long way and it is hard to think it cute time after time.  Finally, the author throws in a couple of brief episodes dating back to 405 A.D. at the time of the Roman Empire and we see the world through the eyes of the man who buried the treasure. This was totally out of sync and quite unnecessary.

The story was uneven due to the many different pieces of the puzzle and even when I was enjoying Lucian and Daisy as a couple, I was not enjoying what was happening to them and sometimes, between them.  Vexing the Viscount is a very mixed bag. 

--Shirley Lyons

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