Honor Among Rogues
Alexander Edgeware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector…
Mischief Among Misses
Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier’s invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring…
This is the first book by Theresa Romain that I have read, and will definitely look for more on the strength of it.
Alex Xavier has spent most of his life being and doing what everyone expects of him. Like many titled young men of the ton, he has done his share of drinking, gambling and womanising –although not as much as his reputation would seem to suggest. Orphaned at a very young age, he has had to find his place in the world without the help of parents or relatives (actually, it’s never made clear exactly who brought him up) and has, as a result, a desire to be noticed and needed – even if it is as a source of gossip and scandal.
When he meets Louisa Oliver however, he begins to acknowledge to himself that this is not who he really is, as she is immediately able to see through the façade to the less cynical and world-weary soul underneath. I liked the way that Romain drew the distinction between the two sides of him, calling the side shown to the world by his title and the more genuine side he shows to Louisa by his first name.
Louisa also suffers under the weight of a reputation that precedes her, although in her case, she has been an object of pity, having been jilted by her fiancé in favour of her sister, and is thought of as a wallflower – she describes herself as “invisible” on several occasions – and a bluestocking.
I thought that the way Louisa and Alex gradually get under each other’s skin was very well handled indeed. Alex tries to maintain his cool exterior in her presence, it soon becomes almost impossible for him to hide from her. Louisa is more successful in guarding her response to him – to the point of making him believe she is using him in order to add to her meagre life-experience. Yet there is a real warmth and affection between them that really leaps from the page. In my opinion, it’s essential to any good romance story for the reader to be able to see the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine, and for it not to be rushed – and here, everything progressed at a gentle pace; not too fast and not too slow. Louisa possesses a very keen sense of humour, and the exchanges between her and Alex really sparkle.
As he comes to know Louisa, Alex realises that he wants to shed his rakish persona and become the man she thinks he has the potential to be… but he doesn’t know how. In order to do this, he has to face the truth about himself and learn to care less about what society will say of his volte face.
There are, of course, a few bumps along the road to happiness, in this novel caused by a relation of Alex’s who he discovers to have been harbouring a grudge for years; when Louisa’s reputation is threatened, Alex does that pig-headed alpha-male thing and sends her away having done his best to convince her that he doesn’t care for her. Fortunately for him, however, Louisa is cleverer than that and with the support of her splendidly eccentric aunt returns to him.
This was a really satisfying romance – the principal characters were well-rounded and it was nice to read about a heroine who is a bluestocking without being a shrinking violet or socially inept.