The Forbidden Lord

The Pirate Lord

The Dangerous Lord
by Sabrina Jeffries
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-80927-3
After finishing Sabrina Jeffries new Regency historical romance and before beginning my review, I felt it necessary to revisit what my colleagues wrote about her first two books. While I had read both books, it’s been a while and I wanted to check out my perception that The Dangerous Lord is markedly different in tone from these earlier works. The first line of the earlier reviews confirmed my suspicions. Both reviewers pointed out how much fun The Pirate Lord and The Forbidden Lord were. Well, maybe my definition of fun is different, but I don’t think so. I simply don’t believe that this new novel can be termed fun.

Which is not to say that it isn’t a well-written or interesting book. Just that it is a departure from Jeffries previous works. Let me explain.

Felicity Taylor, is the daughter of an now deceased architect who left his family -- one eleven-year-old son, a set of six year old triplets and twenty-three year old Felicity -- in desperate financial straits. He left nothing but a lovely townhouse (mortgaged to the hilt) and £100. He also left debts all over London. Since his death, Felicity has held off his creditors by claiming that his estate remains unsettled. She has supported her family by selling off anything valuable and by using the toehold in society her father’s work as architect to the aristocracy has given her in a most unusual fashion. She attends balls and soirees and ton parties not to dance and socialize, but rather to garner information which she can then use as her alter ego, “Lord X,” London’s most famous gossip columnist. The financial difficulties of a young woman without friends or family do not lend themselves to fun,

Nor is the hero’s situation fun-filled. Ian Lennard, Viscount St.Clair fled England and his family after some unnamed crisis at the age of nineteen. He spent six years in danger as a British agent. He returned home upon learning that his father’s will provides that unless he marries and sires an heir by his thirtieth birthday, his beloved estate will fall into the hands of his nasty uncle. Thus, he has spent two years seeking a bride, only to be thwarted because of his reputation as a supposed “dangerous lord.”

Ian and Felicity become acquainted when she publishes an item about the lovely lady he keeps on Waltham Street. Ian discovers “Lord X’s” true identity and confronts his tormentor. Felicity’s motives in writing the piece were altruistic. Her good friend Katherine is being pressured by her parents to accept Viscount St.Clair’s unwelcome suit. And, indeed, the news that Ian is keeping a woman while he is courting her leads Katherine to elope with the man she truly loves. This obviously leaves Ian in a bind.

The back blurb suggests that Ian immediately moves to force Felicity to take her friend’s place as his bride-to-be. Fortunately, Jeffries is cleverer than that. Instead, she arranges for Ian and Felicity to become better acquainted and for the attraction that sparked between them at their first meeting to grow. Ian finally realizes that in marrying Felicity he will be combining duty and pleasure. Felicity balks at the idea of marrying a man who keeps secrets, who will not lay his soul and his past bare. Thus, in the end, Ian does have to use coercion as well as seduction to force Felicity to the altar.

Thus we come to the crux of my problem with this book, a problem that almost but not quite led me not to recommend it. Felicity’s resistance to marrying a man who, she discovers, is brave and honorable and generous and nice to her brothers and wildly attractive because he refuses to be completely “open” with her struck me as forced, especially given her and her family’s dire financial straits. Likewise, I have to admit that when the secret is finally out in the open, it didn’t seem heinous enough to warrant Ian’s fears and guilt.

Yet, in the end, I decided that The Dangerous Lord had enough good points to outweigh this trouble I had with the plot. I mostly admired Felicity’s intelligence and courage in facing a very difficult situation. I thought Ian was a good hero, a man who made a mistake in his youth and couldn’t forgive himself. I liked revisiting the characters from Jeffries’ two previous books. And I sure enjoyed the sexual tension that the author did such a great job of describing. Jeffries does this very, very well.

Finally, I admire Jeffries for trying something different. I like stories that are fun, but I also like stories that are emotionally intense. Jeffries has shown that she can write both kinds of books. She is one of the most promising newer romance authors. The Dangerous Lord makes this quite clear.

--Jean Mason

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