|Set in the early nineteenth century, My Pleasure is the sequel to My Seduction where the basic framework of the Rose Hunters trilogy was established. Three men, raised in a Scottish orphanage, are ransomed from a French prison by a brave Englishman, Lord Nash, who gives his life for theirs. They swear allegiance to his widow and three daughters – they will be at their service wherever and whenever needed.
Ramsey Munro is the illegitimate grandson of an English marquis although he wants his origins to remain unknown. His grandfather rejected his mother and him following the death of his father, and Ramsey cannot forgive or forget.
Since the pledge of loyalty, he has observed Helena Nash from afar. Helena is the oldest of the three sisters. She earns her keep as a paid companion to Lady Tilpot, a widow with too much money and too little sense, who has a beautiful, empty-headed niece Flora she is determined to marry off well.
Unfortunately, prior to the start of the novel, Flora and her swain Oswald Goodwin eloped with some assistance from Helena. The lovers are now forced to hide their marriage because of fears that the it will be annulled if Lady Tilpot learns of it. They rely on the gullible Helena to carry notes between the two. It would apparently be unromantic for this exchange of notes to occur somewhere safe in the light of day such as at the greengrocers on a Tuesday morning. No, Oswald frequents pleasure gardens and clubs at night, and Helena is supposed to run around in the dark looking for him.
As the story opens, Helena is seeking Oswald at a pleasure garden dressed as a lad. Several drunken young gentleman are challenging the notorious swordsman, Ramsay Munro, the owner of a fashionable fencing salle. Helena is drawn into their play, and Ramsay defends her ably and with style. Her attempt to contact Oswald is largely unsuccessful. Ramsey observes their brief meeting and assumes that Helena is seeking adventure and Oswald is her lover.
Back at Lady Tilpot’s, Helena has drawn the interest of Forrester DeMarc who believes that his interest is fully reciprocated. In modern terms, he begins stalking her. Fortunately, Ramsey is often around to rescue her from repeated peril and eventually realizes that he loves her.
Meanwhile, Ramsey’s secret past has refused to die. (There are multiple diversions as episodes from Ramsey’s past are inserted into the narrative.) Ramsey is haunted by his past and is determined to learn who betrayed them to the French. His grandfather at last wants to recognize his only living descendant, but Ramsey coldly refuses. His grandfather senses there’s a weakness in Ramsey’s position – mention of a high-class lover elicits a flicker of interest. Will Ramsey’s love for Helena lead to ruin or happiness?
What bothered me most about My Pleasure was how it repeatedly raised my expectations then disappointed them. The story starts with a really exciting scene then it’s back to Lady Tilpot’s for some boring parlor conversation. Whenever the plot seems to be hitting its stride it’s either back to Lady Tilpot’s parlor or a lengthy detour into Ramsey’s painful past.
Helena is one of those heroines who leaves me cold. She’s uncomfortable with her devastating beauty and has adopted a serenity to hide her insecurity. She’s supposed to be a paid companion at the beck and call of the Lady Tilpot, but she seems to have a lot of freedom to run around London whenever the mood strikes her. She seeks out Flora’s feckless husband time and time again getting herself into potentially dangerous situations so that Ramsey has to step in and save the day. The wonder is that Ramsey doesn’t just wash his hands of her and look for someone who’s got some common sense. I guess that’s the trouble with vows of eternal loyalty – he’s stuck even if the lady lacks so much as a modicum of intellect.
Ramsey’s whole-hearted devotion to Helena is the best aspect of the story. He has serious doubts about her judgment, but he never wavers in his commitment. He is, however, not a hero without flaws. His powers of observation can’t be so great if he is unable to tell from her behavior that she has no interest in Oswald who’s a hole in the air if there ever was one, and he doesn’t believe her when she reveals her fear of DeMarc. He also is incorrect in his knowledge of the order of importance in the English aristocracy: the rank of marquis (or marquess) does outrank that of earl.
My Pleasure never quite recaptured my interest after the first scene. There are too many subplots, too many questionable elements (since when do impoverished paid companions have ready access to £100 to repay Ramsey’s gallant gesture?), and an on-again-off-again plot. I enjoyed the first in the series, My Seduction, much more and was disappointed by this second effort. This one is most likely to appeal to readers who have read My Seduction and are familiar with the rather involved history of these characters.