A Rogue’s Rescue by Donna Lea Simpson

rogue

Despite her vast wealth, Miss Ariadne Lambert, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, is a plain and aging spinster with little but a fading hope that a knight in shining armor will come to sweep her off her feet. Which makes her the perfect prey for the unscrupulous “Dapper” Dorsey, who would stop at nothing to seduce a needy and wealthy woman and then coldly fritter away her funds in the gaming halls of London. As Ariadne succumbs first to his wily charms and then to his kisses, will her need for affection rob her of her dignity—and her fortune?

Viscount Ingram, whose soiled reputation from one especially salacious incident has left him exiled to the sidelines of society, marks his time as a dark and brooding man, tolerated more for his title than his merit. But even he has his standards, and when he learns of a rival’s plot to seduce and then steal from a helpless spinster, he vows to stop him.

Ingram’s noble sentiments and uncharacteristic sincerity are in for a shock, however, as he discovers that the hopelessly gullible Ariadne is in fact a clever and shrewd woman who’s got more than a silly giggle up her sleeve. As the two team up in a devilish scheme to bring about the final undoing of Dorsey, cooperation turns to admiration and then attraction, and they discover that their last chance to repair their reputations may also be their first chance at finding true love.

Rating: B

This is a well-written, well-plotted novella which had previously been published in an anthology that originally appeared in 2002.

Miss Ariadne Lambert is thirty-three, intelligent, rather plain and on the shelf.  At a ball, Lovell Melcher, Viscount Ingram overhears her being discussed as very rich and very gullible, likely to fall prey to the first unscrupulous cad who takes an interest in her.

Ingram then sees her being approached by the handsome, charming and utterly  unprincipled ‘Dapper’ Dorsey’ – a well-known roué and despoiler of young women, and against his better judgement, decides he can’t let her fall into Dorsey’s clutches and intervenes.

What Ingram can’t know of course, is that Ariadne’s simpering miss act is just that – an act.  Underneath the surface she has a sharp mind and a quick wit, and she and her friend Olivia Beckwith have concocted this scheme in order to con Dorsey into returning some very indiscreet letters that were written to him by a friend of theirs who is desperately in love with him.  They had an affair which he ended, and now, she says, he is extorting money from her on pain of circulating her letters throughout the ton.

Ingram is compelling rather than handsome, doesn’t suffer fools and doesn’t shout about his many charitable causes. By his own admission, he is merely tolerated by society and is content to remain on its fringes.  As a viscount, he is invited almost everywhere, but he has an unsavoury reputation and, almost worse, is a self-made man, having only recently and completely unexpectedly inherited his title.

Ariadne’s annoyance at having her plans for Dorsey continually thwarted gives Ingram glimpses of her true self – at the intelligence that lies beneath the awful clothes and simpering manner, and he is more and more intrigued by her.  Eventually, of course, she has to tell him what she and Olivia are up to or risk his ruining their chances of achieving their goal forever.

Instead of trying to stop her or leaving her to it, however, Ingram has an even better plan, which they proceed to put into effect, and all is settled – even though not quite in the way they had expected.

This novella contains a mere 78 pages, and yet Donna Lea Simpson packs in a lot of story.  The characterisation of Ariadne and Ingram is excellent and their exchanges are witty and affectionate.  The romance between them develops quickly of course, but even so, the author manages to convey that there’s a true affection between them, and a very strong foundation for their future relationship.  Although this is clean (just kisses), the air between them fairly sizzles and it’s a really nice change to have an “older” couple (well, in their thirties!) as the focus of an historical romance.

A Rogue’s Rescue is an excellent example of storytelling that is succinct without sacrificing plot or character and a title I don’t hesitate to recommend.

If Ms Simpson could see her way clear to having her other Regencies published as ebooks, I for one, would be most grateful!

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