Beyond Forever

MacKenzie's Magic

Shadow of the Storm

Dangerous by Debra Dier
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5038-2
Dangerous has several elements that have been used, reused, and overused in numerous other romances - the stereotypical icy hero, the slightly older heroine, the formulaic plot - but the charm of the hero and heroine and the believability of their falling in love raise it to the recommended level.

Emma Wakefield’s cousin Charlotte Usherwood has been kidnapped from her bedroom. Emma is an orphan, rejected by her aristocratic grandfather, raised by her cousin’s parents, and devoted to her aunt and cousin. On her uncle’s death, Emma assumed responsibility for the family’s finances and other affairs. Her experience has led Emma to distrust men even as she regrets her lost opportunities to be a wife and mother.

A button found in Charlotte’s bedroom leads Emma to believe that Sebastian St. Clair, Marquess of Andover, is the likely culprit. Emma is not alone in her distrust of the lord; the villainous hero in The Wicked Duke by E. W. Austen, a wildly popular romance, seems to be a thinly disguised Sebastian. Old gossip about his former fiancee’s death is revived and circulating.

Sebastian knows he has to marry to secure the succession. He prides himself on his logic and lack of passion. Passion burns out quickly. He has assembled a list of suitable women who will make an unexceptional marchioness.

Emma confronts him at a ball and lures him to her house where she expects him to confess to the abduction. When he doesn’t, she locks him in the cellar. Sebastian escapes and comes to Emma’s bedroom where he promises to find Charlotte. He has reasons to believe his corrupt nephew Bernard may be responsible for her disappearance.

Emma has no intention of sitting back and letting Sebastian discover the facts. As he goes about London, he finds Emma following him and pursuing the same leads. The strong connection they felt from the beginning will grow into something compelling.

At first Dangerous doesn’t seem to be much different from countless other romances. Cold exterior/passionate interior heroes and intelligent, independent heroines who are the opposite of the image the hero has for his wife are straight from central casting. It’s the romance between Emma and Sebastian that raises this story above the average. As Emma and Sebastian battle the inevitable, the genuine caring between them becomes superior to that in more pedestrian romances. There’s a strong attraction between them at their first meeting; they both know they are completely wrong for each other even as the reader becomes convinced they’re absolutely right for one another. Too often a mystery subplot overwhelms the romance - not in Dangerous. Here, the subplot provides the setting for the flourishing romance. This is a romance novel that hasn’t forgotten the romance in the pursuit of action.

The PG-13 rating may mislead some readers. Prostitution and white-slavery play a part in the plot, and I debated giving it an R rating. Since the intimate scenes between Emma and Sebastian are not too graphic or premature, I decided that R didn’t quite apply, but readers should be prepared for more sexual allusions and explicit episodes than are common in a PG-13 book.

There are a few logic gaps in Dangerous. Emma’s aunt seems remarkably calm for a mother whose only child has been abducted. Sebastian’s multiple siblings are mentioned several times yet play no role in the story. Emma shows up at a brothel as though any well-bred young lady would be familiar with such establishments and their location. Charlotte’s fate is conveniently - and far too sketchily - recounted in a couple of pages at the end of the book (perhaps a sequel is in the works). The setting is so generic that it could take place in practically any period in nineteenth century England.

While it starts conventionally and doesn’t pick up until for several chapters, once the romance really kicked in, however, I was hooked. The overall impression of Dangerous is so positive that it deserves a recommendation.

--Lesley Dunlap

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