Once More, My Darling Rogue (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #2)
Avon / August 26, 2014 / $7.99 print / $6.99 digital
They are England's most eligible bachelors, with the most scandalous reputations. But for the right woman, even an unrepentant rogue may mend his ways . . .
Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can't escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he's not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning, he realizes she doesn't remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she's his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.
While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can't be denied, regardless of consequences. So when Ophelia's memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.
Historical romance need not always be light and fluffy. Indeed, some of the best contain elements—abuse, rape, family jealousies, and family secrets—are not always the stuff of romance. Until put into the hands of a masterful author, however.
Lorraine Heath succeeds in not only building a believable, fictional world that contains these elements, but makes us understand the darkness and insecurities that have shadowed her characters for most of their lives in Once More, My Darling Rogue. And she does it all without spelling anything out on the page, only revealing the details through tantalizing glimpses and small acknowledgements. Her deft work allows readers to learn and think for themselves, revealing a true master in the art of showing and not telling.
Lady Ophelia Lyttleton has grown up privileged and wealthy, surrounded by the ton, but yet even in the beginning of the novel, she is attracted to a man whom she considers to be inferior to her.
It was his smile. The sublime way his lips parted ever so slightly to reveal straight white teeth, and then one corner of his luscious mouth hitching up a little higher to form a tiny dimple in his right cheek that winked with the promise of wickedness.
The use of the word ‘wickedness’ already clues us in; Ophelia is attracted to more than just his smile. It is his belonging in what she believes is the dark underbelly of life that holds her attraction, because, “Sin called to sin.” And, then, later, she fears that “he had the ability to glimpse into her shattered soul. Like called to like, dark to dark.” It is clear that it she thinks that any sexual attraction she might feel for him is a product of her own“wickedness."
And even though Drake was “so terribly talented at eliciting delicious response that began at the tips of her toes and swirled ever upward, a tingling of nerve endings, a lethargic warmth that weakened her knees and her resolve to push him away,” she still tells him that:
“You are no better than the muck I wipe off my shoes.”
But we know that it is because Ophelia has never been in touch with her emotions and cannot see her real attraction to Drake. Instead, she fights against anything that will make her appear weak—a distinct twist on what is usually seen as a masculine trait:
Tears stung her eyes and she blinked them back. She was not allowed to cry. It indicated weakness, allowed others to take advantage. She’d not cried in years, not since—
Drake Darling, too, harbors a darkness within. He carries around the burden of his birth, never quite feeling at home within the bosom of Society. When he feels the sting of Ophelia’s sharp tongue, knowing she wants to put him in his place, he thinks:
As though he could ever forget it. He bathed every night, scrubbed his body viciously, but he could not scrape the grim of the streets off his skin. His family ahd embraced him, their friends had embraced him, but he still knew what he was, knew from whence he’d come.
Drake also struggles with any sort of tenderness he might show towards the woman he has convinced is his housemaid. He does not feel like he can be worthy of a real woman’s love.
He knew the cursed darkness that ran through his blood, had no desire to expose it to a woman who might love him, to pass it on to their children. He had long ago accepted what he was, and this latest effort on his part only confirmed what he and she alone understood about himself: he was a rotten bastard.
Because while Drake is attracted to Ophelia, he believes that she only sees what he sees in himself, and it is not a pleasant picture.
What did he care what she thought of him when her thoughts so accurately mirrored his own? Perhaps that was the ironic twist. That she saw him more clearly than anyone else, and he didn’t much like that they agreed on something.
Yet despite, or perhaps even because of, the insecurities within both Ophelia and Drake, their romance and attraction to each other are strong, deep, and emotional. As a reader, I found myself rooting for them both to overcome their pasts and the demons in their heads—to see the best in themselves, as they see each other. Emotionally resonant, Once More My Darling Rogue is not a light romance, but hits all the right notes.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Once More My Darling Rogue by Lorraine Heath, out August 26, 2014:
Erin Moore writes sensuous and transportive paranormal romances, and is slowly dipping her toes into the world of historicals. She is so grateful to love her job. Living in Atlanta with her husband (who believes he should be the model for all of her covers), her two little boys, and one unruly dog, she finds her inner peace by meditation and writing. Chocolate and good tea are her only vices. Find her most often on Twitter! She's also on Facebook andGoodreads.