I love large groups of men. I particularly love large groups of handsome, sexy men. And, I might add that it doesn’t hurt if they’re all Georgian or Regency men (who can resist those buckskin breeches or those alpha males in satin and short swords?).
Fortunately for me, there are writers out there who know that about me (and probably about you) and who have provided me with some extremely yummy groups of men. How shall I thank them?
It is true that not all groups are alike and not all of them have hooked me into reading an entire series of books. I admit to growing bored when each hero is more or less a clone of the previous one (or two or three). In Stephanie Laurens’s early Bar Cynster books, Devil was a yummy alpha male who would not take no for an answer from the woman he wanted to marry (Devil’s Bride). So was Vane (A Rake’s Vow) and Scandal (Scandal’s Bride) and Demon (A Rogue’s Proposal) and Gabriel (A Secret Love) and...Well, I kind of gave it up about there, but it does go on.
So, let’s talk about Jo Beverley’s Mallorens. Another group of sexy men, and, I might add, sexy men who are comfortable in satin, lace and just a little make-up (sort of a taller, more macho Eddie Izzard). The difference here is that there is a difference. No two of the Mallorens are alike and each has a different story. I liked them all to varying degrees, but none of them bored me.
Cynric Malloren (My Lady Notorious) is something of a hellion. After recovering from an illness, he goes looking for trouble and finds it in the person of Chastity Ware. Cyn was my introduction to the world of the Mallorens and I fell in love. He’s not the kind of hero I usually prefer (I’m more of a Regency Beta girl), but the energy with which he threw himself into helping Chastity and, eventually, marrying her was totally captivating.
After Chastity Ware, dressed as a highwayman and calling herself Charles, stops and commandeers Cyn’s coach and takes him captive, he convinces her first to untie him and trust him and then,
“Yes,” said Charles abruptly “You’re right. Tomorrow we’ll use his lordship’s coach to take us into Shaftesbury, and we’ll purchase seats on the stage.” She turned cold eyes on Cyn. “If, that is, we can trust you thus far, my lord.”
“You can trust me to hell and beyond,” he said simply, “but only if you allow me a place in your adventures. I will not be denied.”
Before long, this big, masculine soldier has joined the escape dressed as a woman: a man bored to his boots and longing for an adventure.
Arcenbryght (Bryght) Malloren followed in Tempting Fortune. I didn’t love Bryght so much. He was a little too Alpha, a little too reckless, and a little too precipitous in choosing his bride. But it was a good story, and the fact that I did not fall in love with the hero did not keep me from moving on to the next.
Something Wicked is about Cyn and Bryght’s sister, Elfled, a wild child like her twin brother, Cynric. Her story enmeshes her in a treasonous plot, a love affair with her family’s sworn enemy and, uniquely, a night of passion in a coffin. Well, they can’t all be men, I suppose. I had little patience with Elfled and did not much like her beloved, but they were intriguing characters and led the reader (as well as the Mallorens) on a wild ride.
And then we come to Secrets of the Night. Brand Malloren is my kind of hero, a lovely beta man, held captive by a woman who requires someone to impregnate her because her elderly husband can’t. Brand, ever the gentleman, obliges and eventually manages to marry her as well. Brand is the true Beta hero, loving and forgiving. After being held as Rosa’s love slave for several days (perhaps not a bad fate for a romance hero), he begins to understand his captor through conversation and observation.
Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close as if she were a large child. He had no idea why he was doing it, but then he realized that he’d wanted to hold her ever since he’d seen that embrace in the garden.
She’d needed comfort then, and he wanted to give her comfort now.
... Her momentary peace was palpable and precious. He could give her this. It might only be a brief respite from whatever troubled her, but it was his to give.
He wanted to say many things, surprising things.
Not one of the resolutions of the first four books would have been possible without this family’s oldest brother, Beowulf, Marquess of Rothgar, eminence noire of the British government and the very embodiment of the Malloren motto: “With a Malloren, all things are possible.” Rothgar had been an imposing presence in each of the preceding novels and it seemed impossible that any heroine would be worthy of him. When Rothgar meets his match in Devilish, we are introduced to facets of his character we had not seen earlier as he orchestrated the fate of his siblings. Early in the book, we see two sides of this complex character.
In chapter 2, after engaging in a deadly sword-fight, Rothgar returns to his home to dress for court:
Rothgar eased into his precisely cut jacket. The dull steel-gray silk fit without a ripple, and was lavishly embroidered with black and silver six inches deep down all the front…. His breeches were of the same gray, as were his stockings. He stepped into black shoes with silver heels and buckles and chose a snowy silk handkerchief edged by the most subtle band of silk lace. Lastly, Fettler pinned the silver star of the Order of the Bath to his left breast, the gold cross in the middle being the only color about him.
Beauty and threat, precisely blended.
I’m not sure that there’s anything sexier than a ruthless man putting on silk and lace and silver heels.
Later, in Chapter 6, after the wedding in Yorkshire of Rothgar’s brother Brand, the Countess of Arradale, who will later journey to London (and into other interesting places) with Rothgar watches him take leave of his brother after he acquires two handfuls of blossoms from her basket:
Then, strolling over to where Brand and Rosa were saying farewell to her parents, he poured them over his brother’s head.
Brand turned, laughing, complaining, and trying to brush multicolored petals from his hair. After a still, smiling moment, he embraced his brother without restraint. Shockingly, at least to Diana, the marquess embraced him back, even lowering his head a moment to rest against the other.
Tenderness in stark contrast to the ruthlessness of the earlier chapter.
And here is the beauty of the Malloren series: many-faceted characters each acting with fidelity to the way they are written, each with a rich inner life.
The Mallorens are not the only large group of fascinating men I fancy. I’ll be back later on to discuss some of the others. Which groups are your favorites?
The Republic of Pemberley