A Gentleman 'Til Midnight
HQN / January 1, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital
Lady Katherine Kinloch survived captivity once. Now the notorious captain of her own ship, she refuses to let anyone jeopardize her hard-won freedom. But on a voyage to England to fight for her family's endangered estate, Katherine is thrown off course when she unknowingly rescues celebrated naval captain James Warre…a man who stands for everything she despises.
Haunted by regret for his role in her dark past, James is determined to be more than the cold, calculating officer Katherine expects. Her seduction is his obsession, but his pride hangs in the balance if he gives in to temptation. And hiding beneath the scorching attraction between them lies a secret that could force the two apart for good.
A Gentleman 'Til Midnight by Alison DeLaine follows the novella “A Lady By Day,” which was published in a single volume along with Stephanie Laurens’ “The Trouble with Virtue.” DeLaine’s first full-length novel explores the rivalry and romance between Captain James Warre, war-weary and shipwrecked, and the woman he once failed to save from slavers, Captain Katherine Kinloch.
The most enjoyable part of the novel is how much fun DeLaine has with her unconventional heroine, as well as Katherine’s equally unconventional friends. Called “Corsair Kate” and considered to be a pirate by most of society, Katherine is in fact a highly competent and ruthless commander of her small merchant ship, who has saved herself from hardship and saved others as well. By taking on what to her society is a male role, she’s learned the power she can wield, and is constantly frustrated when she’s prevented from wielding that power. She can’t simply kill obstreperous aristocrats with her cutlass, and putting off her gowns in favor of trousers, as she constantly longs to do, would damage her status in society, which is vital to her future plans.
When Katherine’s lookout spots a lost sailor floating in the ocean, near-death, she almost leaves him behind, for fear that he is diseased and would kill everyone on her ship. Her ruthlessness is not only for her crew but for her young daughter, who travels with her. Luckily for James, she’s given reason to change her mind and bring him aboard, little knowing that he’s the man whom she’s hated for many years. James still feels guilty over failing to rescue Katherine many years before, and knows she has no love for him, so when he first realizes the identity of his rescuer, he chooses to hide his own identity.
Captain Kinloch crossed her arms and pinned him with an assessing look. “The Henry’s Cross,” she said thoughtfully. “Captain James Warre’s command?”
His own name on her lips caught him by surprise. “Aye.”
Her lip curled. “You have indeed met with improved circumstances, then. What was your rank?”
Improved circumstances? “Midshipman.”
“Midshipman! You’re too old for that.”
Hell. The real Thomas Barclay, of course, had been just the right age. “I was…demoted. Problems with the captain.” It took all his strength to hold her gaze.
“With Captain Warre? What kind of problems?” she demanded.
“Any number of things.” Devil take it, he could barely think.
“I want details.” Damn the woman! “It was…a misunderstanding,” he rasped.
In a heartbeat she whipped out her cutlass and laid it against his neck, leaning over him. “What kind of misunderstanding?” Those topaz eyes blazed, and the ends of her hair pooled on his chest. His body reacted as though she’d straddled his hips.
“Katherine,” Lady Pennington warned.
“Insubordination,” James managed through gritted teeth. He knew men who paid for this kind of treatment, but damnation! He wasn’t one of them. “I’ve been known to have difficulty with authority.” Another grain of truth.
“And Captain Warre tolerated you at his side? The good captain must have favored you.” The blade’s pressure increased by a fraction.
… This was no demoted midshipman. He was an officer, or she’d swallow her cutlass. As soon as they were safely through the strait, she would instruct William to lock Mr. Barclay in the cabin André had occupied. And then she would force the truth from him.
Eventually, after she discovers his true identity, it unleashes a whole raft of new problems for the couple, who by this time have discovered they are irresistibly attracted to one another. She needs James’s help and his alone in keeping her birthright for herself and her daughter; meanwhile, James wants to help her, but not at the cost of his own family.
A Gentleman 'Til Midnight keeps the conflict and the plot twists going until the very end, and though James and Katherine take some time to realize they belong together, it’s an enjoyable voyage all the way.
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