Do you love (or hate) those romance series that revolve around large families?
Lots of brothers and sisters ruled over by an autocratic, emotionally distant, powerful peer of the realm oldest brother who finally meets his romantic match in the sixth or seventh or eighth book of the series?
If so, you have Jo Beverley to thank (or blame). She was one of the first to do so with her Georgian-set series on the Malloren family. I think the whole model is wildly overused now and can't help but roll my eyes when I read a new book only to find that the hero and/or heroine have a gaggle of siblings each jockeying for position to be the next book's hero or heroine.
But, back in 1993 when Jo Beverley wrote My Lady Notorious, it was a fairly new concept. Through five books, we watched the eldest brother manipulate and manage his siblings, just waiting until he got his own book, Devilish. The eldest brother is Beowulf Malloren, the Marquess of Rothgar (ooh, say it with me, “Rothgaaaaar….”) and he puts all other autocratic, emotionally distant brothers to shame. He is a marquess who acts like a marquess, thank goodness. (Dukes, marquesses, and earls (oh my) are not just “one of the guys” and it gripes me when romance authors portray them as carefree, emotionally stunted, whiny boys).
Rothgar is one of the most powerful men in England. An advisor to the young King George III, he holds the well-being of many in his hands; his privilege is also his duty. Diana, Countess of Arradale, is one of those rare creatures, a peeress in her own right, becoming a countess after her father's death, rather than through marriage. Her sense of duty and responsibility is as great as Rothgar's and it is inevitable that two such strong-willed people will clash. And become wildly attracted to each other. But both know that a relationship can go nowhere.
Diana is loath to cede any of her power to some man who, however enlightened, will strip her of her authority. Rothgar has an even more imperative reason for avoiding the whole love and marriage thing: insanity runs in his mother's family (it practically gallops) and, as a child, he witnessed his mother drowning his baby sister in the bath. He has vowed to end that family strain with him. He has a bunch of half-siblings, untainted with the bad blood to carry on the line. But, sexual attraction is not always wise. In fact, it rarely is.
Diana is frustrated, longing for some kind of completion. Rothgar knows that embarking on a journey that they can never complete will only bring more pain. Nevertheless, Diana's nagging wins out and
He freed his fingers and lightly cupped her head, lowering his lips.
She had been kissed in many ways—with mashing passion, and tentative sucking; with intent to impress, and with frantic hope of passing muster. She suddenly felt, however, that she had never experienced a true kiss. A simple kiss, as direct, as honest as a joining of loving hands.
Breath stealing, mind dazzling, soul shaking in its simplicity, power, and connection.
Her lids fluttered open and she stared at him. 'What was that?'
A stupid question.
The answer was: a kiss. But he did not say a kiss. He said, 'That was our kiss.'
Ooh.. “Our kiss.” I like that phrase. Billions of people throughout time have kissed. None of those kisses can be compared to “our kiss.” And, of course, Diana and Rothgar both know that, no matter the consequences, no matter the potential for pain, it cannot be left at “our kiss.” They have passed the Rubicon. The train has left the station. They're about to change their Facebook relationship status. There must be an “our future.” Ahhhh… Rothgaaaaaar….
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.