The Beloved One

The Defiant One

Wicked At Heart

The Wild One

 
The Wicked One by Danelle Harmon
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-80909-5
****
When an author creates a towering continuing character and then has to contrive his happily ever after (think Rothgar), she faces a real challenge. Can she create a heroine who is worthy of said character who is, after all, smarter, braver, handsomer, more impressive, more domineering than anyone he meets? Danelle Harmon faced this problem when she sought to find a mate for Lucien de Montforte, Duke of Blackheath, known to his family and dependents as “the wicked one.” Well, she certainly succeeded. Eva de la Mouriere is one of the more powerful heroines I have come across in quite a while.

The book opens with Eva sitting on the duke’s bed, pistol in hand, waiting for him to arrive in his bedchamber. Obviously, these two have a history, one that was described in Harmon’s previous book, The Wild One. I have not yet read this installment of the saga of the de Montforte brothers; like several hundred other books, it resides on my “to-be-read” pile. Thus, I can say with assurance that Harmon brings uninitiated readers up to speed pretty quickly with the events that brought Eva to Lucien’s chamber.

It seems that Eva, though the widow of a French nobleman, is in fact an American. She has been working with Dr. Franklin in Paris to try to induce the French to ally themselves with the rebellious American colonies. Blackheath has been busy thwarting these efforts. But the real kicker came when Eva tried to steal an aphrodisiac developed by Lucien’s brother Andrew. She wanted to give it to the queen who needed something to arouse Louis XVI’s interest. (It is a well-known fact that Louis had performance problems.) Eva ambushed the de Montforte brothers’ carriage and disabled Lord Charles and Lord Andrew to obtain the aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, Blackheath had switched the bottles so Louis, rather than getting it up, ended up quite ill. This gravely injured Eva’s social position and harmed her cause, so she has come both to recover the potion and to gain revenge.

Needless to say, the sexual tension between Lucien and Eva is palpable from the beginning. Eva escapes back to Paris and Lucien follows, both to gain revenge against the woman who has bested him and to try to find information about his sister Nerissa’s lover, Perry, captured by an American privateer.

The encounter between the two is nothing short of incendiary, especially since Eva decides to test the purloined potion to insure that it is the real thing. It is. But once again, Blackheath succeeds in thwarting Eva’s plans and once again she finds herself persona non grata in Paris. Eva decides to seek refuge in England with her cousin Celsie, now married to Lord Andrew. She is determined to bring the duke down a peg. But she also has a secret. That passionate encounter in Paris left her with more than a need to leave France; it left her pregnant with the duke’s child.

Both Eva and Lucien carry lots of baggage. She has an ingrained distrust and dislike of men, forged by her childhood experiences and her miserable marriage. She prizes her independence above all. Lucien, who became duke at the tender age of ten, has spent his life “protecting” his siblings. He has an overpowering if understandable need for control. How can these two hope to find happiness?

The Wicked One is a real page turner. Both the characters and the story fully engage the reader. And the love scenes are truly inflammatory. It’s a good thing I was reading them in a cool room. What made the book a success, in my opinion, is that fact that Lucien and Eva are well-matched. Neither could have been happy or loved someone who was not as strong. Yet each has hurts that the other can heal. So when they realize that love and not just lust has entered their lives, we can believe it.

Despite some improbabilities in the story, my attention was so engaged that I was quite willing to suspend disbelief (although I really wish Harmon had not had the hero and heroine dancing a waltz in 1777). I quite enjoyed this finale to the saga of the de Montforte brothers. Indeed, I am going to have to more The Beloved One and The Wild One to the top of my to-be-read mountain. Next time I want a really sexy love story, I’m going to pick up one of Harmon’s books. I know I won’t be disappointed.

--Jean Mason


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