When respectable country widow Connstance Rattigan finds herself in a notorious London brothel instead of at the altar, only one person can save her from the auction block.
Alex Vernon, Lord Ripley, walked away from Connie once before, when he discovered she was engaged. Now that her fiancé has betrayed her, he doesn’t intend to leave her again.
Once he has made love to her, Alex feels the situation is resolved. He’ll marry her. But Connie has other ideas.
Only three problems to solve—Connie signed a marriage contract as binding as the marriage ceremony with someone else, she’s disgraced in the eyes of society, and she won’t marry him until her name is cleared.
I was initially drawn to Rogue in Red Velvet because of its setting of London in the 1750s, which makes a nice change from my regular diet of Regency and Victorian set stories. It’s the first in a new series from Ms Connolly featuring the so-called Emperors of London, a group of men (all related) who are rich and powerful movers and shakers in society.
Lord Alexander Ripley is young, handsome, wealthy – and thus a prime target for marriage-minded young ladies and their equally determined mamas. Trying to hide from one particular young woman who can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, Alex stumbles into the library of the house he’s staying in and meets Mrs Constance Rattigan, the goddaughter of Lord Downholland. She is eschewing the house-party and is currently engaged in seeking out and cataloguing all the documentation she can find which relates to the family’s long history and traditions. Immediately struck by Connie’s good sense and complete lack of artifice, Alex offers his help, which Connie gratefully accepts – some of those books are bloody heavy!
Connie has noticed Alex before, of course, but being a widow of advanced years (she’s twenty-eight!) knows she’s never going to be able to do more than look. Even though she’s about to sign the contracts for her betrothal to Jasper Dankworth, her godmother’s nephew, she decides to live a little and enjoy Alex’s company for the brief period they can spend together. Alex proves to be a good companion – kind, intelligent and deeply honourable, in spite of his rakish reputation with the ladies.
Their brief idyll ends and Alex returns to London on the same day as Connie’s soon-to-be-betrothed arrives. Connie married for love the first time, but things did not work out at all well, so she has determined that her second marriage will be for more practical reasons. Dankworth is young and good-looking, although known to be a little unsteady. Lord and Lady Downholland think that marriage to Connie will settle him down, and are keen to promote the match, which will also keep their property in the family, as they have no children of their own and Connie is the closest thing they have to a daughter.
The contracts are signed and a date for the wedding is set. Connie travels to London in order to make her own preparations – but never reaches her destination. Dankworth’s need for money has become desperate and he has found himself a bigger prize, but breaking his contract with Connie will ruin him. So he comes up with a vile plan which will enable him to legally rid himself of any obligations. He has Connie drugged, abducted and taken to a Covent Garden brothel, there to be publicly auctioned off to the highest bidder.
This aspect of the plot may seem a little far-fetched at first glance, but it’s true that these sorts of auctions did take place at the time and that the “auctioneers” were less than scrupulous about the provenance of their “goods”.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.