The Darkest Knight

My Lady's Guardian

His Scandal by Gayle Callen
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-82109-5
His Scandal, second book in a trilogy, is one of those books that leaves me in a quandary. There is romance, an energetic and likable heroine, a slightly intriguing but lovable hero and sexual tension galore. But its 377 pages feels drawn out in places and slightly tedious, with only a hint of the history of 1589 England. In the end, I am recommending it based on the strength of the romance.

Sir Alexander Thornton is a twin who was forced to act in the place of his brother, the viscount, for over two years while said brother spied for the Queen in Spain. (This was apparently the plot of the first book in the trilogy. Now, Alex is back in London, trying to recapture himself. His reputation is one of a rogue, a gambler and a ladies man. But he is bored and looking to find something in his life similar to the joys he discovered when he acted as the viscount. He is disheartened by the fact that everyone he dealt with as the viscount now rejects his ideas and thoughts because he is just the younger brother, a mere knight.

He makes a wager with his friend, Sir Edmund Blackwell. Edmund is to get a kiss from a young lady named Elizabeth Langston, while Alex gets a kiss from Blythe Prescott. The challenge for Alex is to get around the spinster sister, Emmeline, who watches over Blythe.

While Blythe is young, carefree and innocent, Emmeline is on the shelf, although she too is still young (in her mid-twenties) and innocent. Emmeline has convinced herself that she will never marry, as the only man she was attracted to was a mere poet/farmer, and no one who met her fatherís standards was interested in her. After all, she is the daughter of the Marquess of Kent and should only marry nobility.

Now she acts as her fatherís steward and hostess while chaperoning and caring for her sister. Alex is a threat, as his past is marred by scandals and is not the marrying type. She strives to keep him from Blythe. Alex, on the other hand, is intrigued by Emmeline from the start, and does everything in his power to win her approval, so he can gain the kiss from Blythe and win the bet.

Ah, the best-laid plans go astray. Em finds herself sexually aware of Alex and soon realizes there is more to him than he wants the world to know. She sees beneath his demeanor to the depths of his personality. She becomes Alexís friend, and then sees her friendship deepen into love. Alex knows he is not the marrying kind, but he soon sees that it is Em he wants to spend time with, and wants to do so without hurting Blythe. He too feels the sexual sparks and yet knows he must be careful, as he has never ruined an innocent.

I truly enjoyed their banter, and the discovery of their feelings. The scenes of seduction are well written and full of sexual innuendo and tension. Emmeline learns about passion, struggling with her feelings while knowing Alex has sworn not to marry. Alex resists his growing lust and affections, while denying there is more to his feelings. This is romance at its best.

While I truly enjoy their character development, the tedium comes in when their discoveries keep unfolding, yet they refuse to admit what is happening under their noses. The plotline regarding the complications Edmund is having in his pursuit of Lady Elizabeth are distracting and seem to add pages without real content. It seems to be this may be a set-up for the next book in the trilogy, but it is full of more information than I need in this story.

With Alex and Emmeline, author Callen has introduced an engaging, intelligent couple whose romance is full of fun and sexual pleasure that keeps the reader turning the pages. Since I read an uncorrected proof, I can only hope the editor tightens up the subplots to allow the romance in His Scandal to shine.

--Shirley Lyons

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