For years the romance fiction world has waited for the Marquess of Rothgar's story, since he first appeared in My Lady Notorious, and in subsequent Malloren books. With his family happily married, readers are eager to learn if Rothgar can now, somehow find a ladylove of his own.
Except, for Rothgar marriage is not possible. Haunted by his mother's murderous madness, he vowed not to marry and risk tainting his children. For years he has stayed true to his vow, content to advise the young king and pursue a relationship with his mistress, a women known to be infertile.
Diana, Countess of Arradale, changes all that, with the barrel of her pistol, her intelligence, beauty and wit. After travelling north to her estate for the wedding of his brother Brand and her cousin Rosa, Rothgar receives orders from King George III to escort the Countess to London. Angered by Diana's request to take her seat in the House of Lords as is her right as Countess, the king is determined to see her married. Rothgar agrees to help Diana avoid that fate, even promising to wed her himself, in name only, should the need arise.
As Countess, Diana is used to ruling her estate and answering to no one, while pursuing her less than feminine past times and avoiding the formal world of Court. A husband would reduce her status and control of her land. Since her first meeting with Rothgar, though, she has found him difficult to forget. Especially his offer of seduction. The smoldering attraction flares to life at the wedding and burns with increasing intensity during their journey south, despite the knowledge that Rothgar means to avoid intimacy between them.
Rothgar's role as Royal advisor leaves him open to attack. The journey is interrupted twice by those seeking to destroy him, leaving him vulnerable to Diana's charms. Once back in London, though, he rebuilds the walls around his heart, determined to keep her at bay. But Diana is not a woman to surrender easily and even turns his own motto "With a Malloren anything is possible" back on him when he states that nothing can change his circumstances.
Danger continues to stalk them and Rothgar is forced to come face to face with just how much Diana means to him. But can he put aside the fear of hereditary madness and accept her love?
Once again, Jo Beverley has penned a love story of emotion and suspense. Rothgar is a strong hero who captures the imagination - cool and controlled, yet vulnerable and caring. Diana is a worthy, clever and brave, but at little spoiled. She grows throughout the story, and together they find a way to battle the demons haunting Rothgar.
The story is well paced, the secondary characters exquisitely drawn and the historical detail plentiful, without overshadowing the romance or the plot. Is Rothgar's story worth the wait? In my opinion, it most definitely is - devilishly so!
© Teresa Eckford, 2002