It Happened One Night

Lady Reckless

Daring the Devil by Leslie LaFoy
(Bantam, $5.50, R) ISBN 0-553-58042-6
Excuse the alliteration, but Daring the Devil is sexy, smart and suspenseful. This one has everything: smart, fun dialog; well-researched history, which is seamlessly weaved into the story line; well-drawn characters; and last but certainly not least, sizzling sexual chemistry between the hero and heroine.

Twenty-two-year old Darcy O'Keefe is the product of a wealthy lace-curtain Irish mother and a poor shanty Irish father. After her father dies, Darcy's mother retreats into her own mind and Darcy must provide for them both. Her profession, despite her extensive education, is that of pickpocket in the streets of Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 1835.

Tracking Jules, the man responsible for murdering his father and countless others, has brought wealthy businessman, Aiden Terrell, to the tough streets of Charlestown. Aiden needs a guide to show him the underbelly of the town; the places a man on the run might frequent.

Aiden spots a "boy" and lets him pick his pocket only to give chase -- Aiden wants the boy to take him to his boss so that Aiden can work a deal about obtaining a guide. Darcy does her best to fight and talk her way out of Aiden's pursuit but in the end Aiden ends up exactly where he wants to be, at her boss/guardian's (Mick) establishment.

Mick is none too happy about Aiden but he's very unhappy with Darcy for disregarding the rules and going after a mark on her own, and for injuring her hand in the scuffle with Aiden. Darcy's injury means she can't practice her profession, so Mick assigns her to Aiden for a hefty fee -- but not before warning Aiden that he'd better not try anything funny with Darcy.

These two clash until Aiden wins the pot of money the men of the local pub have designated for the man who's able to kiss Darcy O' Keefe and live to tell the tale. Darcy wants to believe that she let Aiden kiss her solely for a share of the money, but she's too honest not to acknowledge the attraction that is springing up between them. Aiden, too, is surprised at how much he wants Darcy O'Keefe. So much so, that his obsession for finding Jules is warring with his new obsession: keeping Darcy in his life. .

Daring the Devil reminds me of historical romances written by two of my favorites, Loretta Chase and Mary Jo Putney. Like these fine authors, Ms. LaFoy knows how to make good use of an historical period. And, like these other writers, she's not afraid to let her characters experience life -- the joys and the sorrows.

Also, I've always admired the heroines these authors create: women who are strong, independent and resourceful, yet also warm and vulnerable. Darcy is just such a heroine; she doesn't have one coy bone in her virginal body. Darcy takes responsibility for all her decisions, both the good and the bad -- very refreshing.

At times, Aiden is unworthy of Darcy -- he's a little too obsessed with keeping her with him rather than keeping her safe. However, I was convinced Aiden was certain he could always keep her safe and that he simply couldn't bear the thought of being apart. I also thought the author did a fine job of giving Aiden a conscience in the form of his valet and best friend, Nathan.

Everyone has a different take on what makes a romance a five-heart romance. For me, this is not a scientific process. When a book is special, I find my reading speed slows down considerably because I want to savor every word, and because I don't want to miss a single nuance. Daring the Devil is a special romance, so take some time and enjoy.

--Judith Flavell

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