A Risk Worth Taking by Laura Landon

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Griffin Blackmoor blames himself for the tragic accident that claimed his wife and young son. Riddled with guilt, he prays that during the Crimean War an enemy’s bullet will end the consuming torture he can’t escape. Instead, that bullet finds his best friend. Now there isn’t enough whiskey in England to make him forget all the people who have died because of him. But before he can drown himself in an endless sea of liquor, he must keep the promise he made his dying friend. Except that promise is sure to risk an innocent woman’s life—and his own battered heart.

When her brother’s sudden death leaves her destitute, Lady Anne Carmichael knows she must marry. Although her dark beauty earns her the attention of London’s most eligible bachelors, only one man can stir her soul with his kisses. Griffin Blackmoor is everything she swore she never wanted. So why does his love feel like exactly what she needs?

Rating: C-

This is the second or third book I have read by this author and as with the others, A Risk Worth Taking is competently and features some appealing characters, but it’s not going to set the romance world alight. It’s a simple and undemanding read, but the storyline is unoriginal and, quite frankly, needed a little something extra in terms of the depth of the characterization, dialogue or plot to make it stand out from all the other books with similar plotlines.

Griffin Blackmoor is an ex-soldier and intelligence officer who is weighed down by guilt over the death of his wife and young son four years previously. He’s the brother of an earl, handsome, and independently wealthy. He has led a reclusive and aimless existence since the tragedy; he’s determined never to get close to anyone again – not only because he can’t bear to experience that sort of loss again, but also because he believes that anyone who gets close to him will come to grief through their association.

This belief is further reinforced when Griff’s best friend, Freddie, the Marquess of Brentwood, is shot and killed by a bullet Griff thinks must have been intended for him. The pain of his friend’s loss together with the crushing weight of guilt finally sends Griff over the edge and into the arms of the bottle.

Freddie’s last words had been a plea to take care of his sister, Annie , but Griff is so bound up in his own self-pity that it’s several months before he remembers his friend’s request. When he does, the only thing he can think of is to pass her off onto his brother, Adam, Earl of Covington, and his wife. As an unmarried man, Griff cannot have a young woman living under his roof unchaperoned – and in any case, he’s firmly set on a course for self-destruction and doesn’t want any responsibilities getting in the way of his goal of drinking himself to death.

Lady Anne Carmichael and her young sister, Becky, have been left almost destitute by their brother’s death, as his estates – with one small exception – are entailed and pass to their cousin. The new Marquess kindly allows the ladies to remain in a cottage on the estate – but it soon becomes clear that he’s up to no good when he later says he needs the cottage for the new caretaker and the sisters will have to leave. Annie refuses his proposal of marriage even though she has no idea where they will go.

Meanwhile, Adam has agreed to take Annie into his home (Becky is away at school) and sponsor her for a Season, but on one condition: Griff must stop drinking and sober up. Griff is angry and appalled at what he sees as an unreasonable demand, because of course, he can stop drinking any time he wants – he just doesn’t want to. Griff’s alcoholism and subsequent drying-out was one of the aspects of the story which was handled in a very believable manner. I’ve read so many books where the hero (or heroine) has an addiction which they overcome almost overnight and without too much pain or effort; but here, Ms Landon hasn’t shied away from showing her hero when he’s inebriated and not functioning properly, or from showing how hard it is for someone in his situation to kick the habit.

Having dumped Annie with Adam, Griff believes his obligation fulfilled, but to help things along, he – unbeknownst to her – settles a large dowry on her. As a result, her popularity among the young men of the ton is assured, and she has her pick of suitors, although by this time, Griffin is fighting a reluctant attraction to her even as he decides that none of the men courting her are good enough.

Alongside the romance is the side-plot concerning Griff’s attempts to discover who is trying to kill him. He’s convinced he’s the intended victim – after all, he was present when Freddie was killed and when a runaway carriage threatened Annie’s life, and these are more reasons he heaps up as to why it’s dangerous for him to get close to anyone. I did find it rather annoying that a supposedly intelligent man would refuse to admit the possibility that perhaps someone other than himself is the intended target – but Griff is having far too much of a good time at his self-pity-party to see that there might be any other explanation.

While the real villain of the piece could be spotted early on – he did everything but swirl a cloak, rub his hands and snicker “muahahahaha!” – there was an attempt to divert suspicion to someone who had a grudge against Griff and his former military colleagues, but it never really gelled.

There was some incredibly cheesy dialogue in the book and the characterization of both principals was little more than two-dimensional. Griffin was defined almost entirely by his guilt and his alcoholism, and Annie was a fairly stereotypical “damsel-in-distress”. There was a sprinkling of romantic tension between them, but this is a squeaky-clean story, so no nookie to liven things up a bit! And I have to say that I thought the manner of closing the bedroom door on the couple’s belated wedding night was abrupt in the extreme. There’s an art to writing romantic love scenes without getting into detail, but one line: “And then he made her his wife” – isn’t going to win any awards in that department.

I said at the beginning that I’ve read a couple of other books by this author, and even I’m beginning to scratch my head as to why. I read them a while ago so can’t remember many details, but I’m supposing they must have been better efforts than this one.

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