The Beloved One

Wicked At Heart

The Wild One

The Defiant One by Danelle Harmon
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-80908-7
The latest in Danelle Harmon’s de Monteforte series tells the story of Lord Andrew de Monteforte, the moody and intelligent youngest brother nicknamed the Defiant One. Andrew’s only wish in life is to be left alone to work in his private laboratory. After a heated argument with his meddling brother, Lucien, the Duke of Blackheath, Andrew haphazardly starts combining chemicals and stumbles across an aphrodisiac!

Shortly thereafter, Lady Celsiana Blake bursts into Andrew’s bedroom and demands to see his laboratory. The poor girl has been misled by Lucien, who told her that Andrew is conducting experiments on animals, and being a fervent animal rights crusader she is determined to put a stop to the madman. So, Andrew crawls out of his bed, wraps a blanket around his state of undress and takes her to his lab.

Andrew tells Celsie about the aphrodisiac, and she tries to convince him to give her some of the potion -- she has a particularly beautiful stallion who refuses to mate. Andrew says no, claiming he needs to study the potion more. Celsie offers to try some of the potion herself, Andrew relents, and one thing leads to another.

Of course, Lucien and Celsie’s brother, Gerald, happen in at the right time to find the two in a most uncompromising position. Gerald is livid and Lucien demands that Andrew do right by Celsie and marry the girl to save her from scandal. And while both Andrew and Celsie don’t want to marry, the two are soon trapped in a web designed by Lucien to bring the unwilling lovers together.

I really liked Andrew and Celsie, even though they get off to somewhat of a rocky start romantically. While they initially can’t stand the sight of each other, they soon realize that a common ground is necessary to outsmart Lucien. After agreeing to set aside their animosity, the two discover that they have quite a bit in common. It is this budding friendship that provides several touching moments in the narrative.

Andrew’s nickname is well earned, he is by far the most reluctant of all the de Monteforte men, and the reader gets the feeling that there is no way he’d ever marry if not for the maneuverings of Lucien. But he’s also charming, intelligent, and a wonderful tortured romantic hero.

Celsie is an equally enjoyable heroine, ahead of her time for her passion for animal rights, and courageous. She more than once voices her opinion on how frustrating it is to be treated like a simpering idiot by men. The idea of looking pretty and being an empty headed, giggling twit holds no appeal, and parading herself before prospective suitors turns her stomach. When she debuted in society, she was a gawky teen that everyone made fun of. It wasn’t until she came into her inheritance that men started fawning over her. She’s smart enough to know when people are just looking to use her as a means to an end, and I immediately respected her.

Lucien, while technically a secondary character, plays a hefty role in the story, conveniently laying traps to bring the two reluctant lovers together. I initially found his character rather tiresome. He manipulates every one around him, including every single member of his family. Sure he’s the Duke, but why don’t his sister and three brothers unite to stop him? I found it inconceivable that anyone would knowingly allow their own brother to plot against them. However, Lucien does somewhat redeem himself in the end, and Harmon provides a delicious cliffhanger that promises readers that Lucien will receive his comeuppance.

The use of an aphrodisiac provides an element of fantasy to the story, and allows The Defiant One to become a light hearted romp in 1777 English society. Amusing moments and light comedy infuse life into what could have been just another run of the mill historical. Fans will not be disappointed, and newcomers may find themselves seeking out the earlier books.

--Wendy Crutcher

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