Heart of a Warrior

The Heir

Joining

The Pursuit

 
A Loving Scoundrel
by Johanna Lindsey
(Atria, $25.00, R) ISBN 0-7434-5625-4
*****
Many years ago, Johanna Lindsey wrote a series of stories about the Malory family. First there was Regina, a niece of Anthony and James, who each had their own story. Another niece Amy and nephew Derek’s stories followed. To many fans, these Malory family stories were the top of the heap and the first three are looked at by many as Lindsey’s best. The long awaited story of Jeremy has now been published. Jeremy is the son of James, who was born as a result of a brief affair and who was raised first in a tavern and then on the high seas during James’ pirating days. A Loving Scoundrel is the story and for this reader, it was well worth the wait.

Jeremy is now 25 and definitely a rogue of the first order. His smile can melt any woman’s heart and he is sure to steer clear of innocent misses who want to marry him. He is street smart (because of the first 16 years in a tavern) and quite capable of taking care of himself (due to the lessons learned from the shipmates). He has the Malory charm and is a lovable rascal. For readers who liked the previous heroes of Anthony and James Malory and Nicholas Eden, Jeremy is your kind of hero. He takes after his kin.

The lovely young miss who will steal his heart (because Malorys only marry for love) is not a traditional debutante, she is a young thief who dresses as boy and has been fooling everyone until Jeremy. Born of aristocratic parents, Danny remembers only being found on the streets with her dead nurse at her side and blood on her clothing. She was taken in by a band of young children who had formed a gang of pickpockets and whores. Being only five, one of the older girls decided to dress her as a boy to save her from having to work the streets when she reached puberty. Soon everyone accepted her as he. She is good at what she does and has been lucky to escape detection as she has grown taller and has had to conceal her bosom.

But her luck changes the night she falls into Jeremy’s trap. Once he discovers her deception, he decides to offer her the chance to become his mistress. Jeremy installs Danny in his house as an upstairs maid. She agrees to the maid’s job only to get off the street and get a real job, which will allow her to dress as a woman and hopefully meet someone whom she can love, marry and have children with. She declines Jeremy’s other offer, but no one believes her.

When circumstances arise where a suitable miss is needed to give the appearance that Jeremy is already caught in the marriage trap in order to protect him from an overzealous spoiled aristocrat, Danny is tapped for the assignment. And she not only convinces the ton, but herself and Jeremy as well. There is the subplot of stolen jewelry (which is the reason Jeremy was searching for a thief in the beginning) and the story of Danny and her real identity. Both keep the story moving along and provide the background for the romance.

Now, there is a lot to this tale that must be accepted to truly enjoy it. Danny is a maid, yet at times is treated like a high-bred lady. In fact, she “remembers” quite easily how to act like a debutante, even though she was only five when she lost her memory. Jeremy does not hide it from anyone that he wants to bed this woman, and everyone seems to take this in stride. Of course, a ploy of this nature fits right in with the rest of the Malorys who all married in unique circumstances, yet are readily accepted by the ton as some of its most elite members.

Fans of the series will be reacquainted with almost all of the characters and get a chance to relive some of the fun loving bickering and bantering that made the earlier stories enjoyable. I doubt if this story will stand on its own if a reader knows no history of the Malorys. Without the background, much of the plot twists would seem too farfetched in regency England. Drew, brother to James’ wife Georgina, plays a large part in the proceedings and appears to be set up to have his own story sometime soon.

There is romance, adventure, a strong woman who knows her own mind, a man who thinks he knows it all until he is set to rights by the woman he loves and a family reunion. It is truly pure Malory formula and it is fun. A Loving Scoundrel resorts to the tried and true, and for this reader (and I am sure many other fans), it is a formula that works well. And for that, it is a keeper just like the rest.

--Shirley Lyons


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