To Tempt a Rake

Too Wicked to Wed
by Cara Elliott
(Grand Central, $7.99, R) 978-0446-58457-9
If you enjoy stories that have a dashing rake with disturbingly rude tendencies and cynically acerbic comments throughout the story and heroines who are brash, daring and often risk-takers with no semblance of concern for her reputation, then you will like the first of the Lords of Midnight series. The series follows three men who met in the Army and are known as the Hellhounds. Otherwise, you might find this a tad too non-conforming and too farfetched for believability.

Lady Alexa Hendrie is almost a spinster and has spent her formative years in the country running her brother’s estate. She is knowledgeable about many subjects reserved for males and has no compunction about telling all that she has a mind and should not be shuffled to sit sewing and pursuing gossip. She also, in a fairly predictable plotline, feels she is not pretty and compares unfavorably to ladies in the beau monde. Her brother has recently married and has sent her off to her aunt in London for a long past-due season. Alexa hopes to survive it and find a way to live her spinsterly life afterwards.

She enlists the help of a cousin in a variety of adventures, including dressing as a man and going to a gambling den and in doing so, winning half interest in a brothel. It turns out said brothel is owned by the Earl of Killingworth, Connor Linsley. Alexa had met Connor several years ago when she was searching for her brother, who happened to be an old army buddy of his. The interlude started when she barged into the Wolf’s Lair (the brothel) and ended with a searing kiss that left her shaken for days.

Connor is in a pickle. He had just been soundly beaten in a card game by a man named DeWinter and at the same time, his safe was robbed. Knowing he was cheated but unable to prove it at the time, Connor is determined to figure out who is trying to see him ruined. He borrowed money from his friend, Gryff, another Earl, who promptly got sotted and lost the vowel in a card game. Finding out later the young “pup” he thought he was playing was actually a woman, just added insult to injury. When she refused to let him pay her for the vowel, he has no recourse but to tell Connor, who is known in some circles as the Wolfhound.

Alexa brazenly goes to the brothel and winds up with Connor as he is shot at on the street. They retreat to one of his other friends, who swiftly rushes them out of town to the Killingworth estate in the country. There they are mistaken to be married and must act like they like each other. Really Connor is angry and determined to get his property back. Alexa is mixed up, finding Connor very attractive and is hurt when it doesn’t appear that he likes her, let alone feels anything for her, except, of course, lust.

They join forces ultimately to discover who is out to get Connor and fall in love in the process. The story is a bit convoluted with the villain coming out of the blue. The adventures are just a bit too much and Alexa is the type of heroine that is both fearless and impetuous. At times, neither of those traits is the smart choice. The glimpses of the other two hellhounds are intriguing and both raise enough interest that I may seek out their tales. Hopefully, their stories will be a little more realistic.

Too Wicked to Wed is a story that is both engaging and frustrating. For me, it was more of the first than the latter. For others, it may be the opposite.

--Shirley Lyons

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