As a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Benedict Frost had the respect of every man on board–and the adoration of the women in every port. When injury ends his naval career, the silver-tongued libertine can hardly stomach the boredom. Not after everything–and everyone–he’s experienced. Good thing a new adventure has just fallen into his lap…
When courtesan Charlotte Perry learns the Royal Mint is offering a reward for finding a cache of stolen gold coins, she seizes the chance to build a new life for herself. As the treasure hunt begins, she realizes her tenacity is matched only by Benedict’s–and that sometimes adversaries can make the best allies. But when the search for treasure becomes a discovery of pleasure, they’ll be forced to decide if they can sacrifice the lives they’ve always dreamed of for a love they’ve never known…
Theresa Romain is a busy lady right now, having not one, but TWO historical romance series on the go. The first full-length novel in her Romance of the Turf series was released a couple of months ago (A Gentleman’s Game), and now comes Fortune Favors the Wicked, book one in the Royal Rewards series.
I, for one, am only too pleased, because Ms Romain has become an auto-buy author for me over the past couple of years, so I’m certainly not going to say “no” to more of the warm, witty and clever stories which are her trademark. When I pick up one of her books, I know I’m going to get a well-written story that features strongly-drawn, attractive characters that I can come to care about, and in which the romance is kept to the fore even as she makes good use of whatever background she has chosen to use.
Fortune Favors the Wicked sees a former courtesan and a blind ex-naval officer team up in order to try to discover the whereabouts of six trunks of newly-minted gold sovereigns that were recently stolen from the Royal Mint. Rumours have drawn them both to Derbyshire and to a village near the home of Charlotte Perry, daughter of the local vicar. Ten years earlier, Charlotte was ruined by the young man with whom she believed herself in love, and left with no other options, removed herself to London where she carved herself out a life as La Perle, a high-flying courtesan. But now, she has had enough of that life and is determined to leave it behind forever – hence her desire to find the missing coins and claim the reward, which she plans to use to look after her family.
Lieutenant Benedict Frost joined the Navy when he was twelve and travelled the world, but a severe illness four years ago left him blinded and unable to continue in his career. He now lives on half-pay and a pension in cramped apartments at Windsor Castle as a Naval Knight, but this has the downside of meaning he can never leave or get married, as if he does he will lose his home and his pension. He has worked extremely hard at learning to function without his sight, and, unlike the typically beastly, self-pitying, blind heroes so often found within the pages of romance novels, is charming, witty, sexy and completely adorable. Like Charlotte, he has family to take care of, in his case a younger sister for whom he wants to provide a decent dowry.
Benedict’s good friend, Lord Hugo Starling, is also a friend of the Reverend Perry and has arranged for Benedict to stay at the vicarage while he is searching for the gold. This naturally throws him and Charlotte together and they agree to seek the treasure together – which has the added advantage of enabling them to explore the mutual attraction that sparks between them. Each can contribute different things to their endeavour; Benedict may not be able to see, but he is extremely intelligent, logical and notices practically everything, while Charlotte is equally clever, strong and very determined.
The search for the coins is an intriguing plot device, but is most definitely secondary to the romance between Charlotte and Benedict, which unfolds at a good pace and which is by turns funny, sexy and sweet. Benedict is refreshingly good-natured and open, and although I’m not normally a fan of courtesan heroines, there is something about Charlotte’s underlying vulnerability that drew me to her. I also appreciated that she’s a sexually active heroine who is not completely anachronistic. Both she and Benedict are very likeable and so wonderfully normal as to be rather extraordinary in a genre that is full of extremes; and their problems feel very real. Charlotte has been dogged by guilt for the past ten years; Benedict feels purposeless, but as they grow together they help each other to see that perhaps their perspectives are skewed and to find a way forward.
Fortune Favors the Wicked is a truly delightful novel and one I have no hesitation in recommending. It’s beautifully written and perfectly paced; full of gentle humour, some not-so-subtle innuendo and a couple of truly engaging protagonists, it’s the sort of book you want to cuddle up with and hug.