The Dangerous Gentleman
by Julia London
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23561-8
***
The Dangerous Gentleman is a dark tale of the pain and the loss of innocence a woman experiences as a pawn of revenge. If you want to read a lighthearted story, this is not the one.

Adrian Spence, the Earl of Albright, had to kill his friend and cousin, Phillip, in a duel. Adrian had tried to avoid shooting him, but Phillip shot at him twice and Adrian had no choice. After it was all over, Adrian and his two other friends realized that Phillip had been having trouble with drinking and gambling and had been worse off than they had realized. Adrian is filled with grief over the death of his friend.

Adrian decides to go home to Kealing Park, hoping that his father will not be there. Although he is the elder son, his father has always favored his younger brother, Benedict, and has threatened to disown Adrian many times. With the news of Phillip's death, his father does just that. His brother is a much weaker man and does not defend him against their father.

Adrian learns that Benedict is hoping to marry Lilliana Dashell, whose father owns the land adjoining Kealing Park. Her father has fallen on hard times and is close to an agreement with Adrian's father to have his debts paid in exchange for the marriage between Benedict and Lilliana. The agreement is not that attractive because it would mean that Dashell's son would not receive the estate as his inheritance. Adrian decides that as revenge against his father and his brother, he will offer Dashell a better deal and marry Lilliana away from Benedict.

Lilliana likes Benedict and is ready to marry him, but as a young girl, she had a fascination for the dashing Adrian. When he proposes that they wed, she is thrilled because she believes that the two of them will lead exciting lives. They marry quickly, but she soon discovers that her marriage is nothing like she expected. While the two of them find passion in bed, he never stays with her afterward and during the day, he is politely distant and shows no interest in her.

The author poignantly details the pain and loss of self-esteem that Lilliana experiences at her husband's indifference. It hurt to see this vibrant woman so confused and sad. When she begins to do outrageous things (at least outrageous in that era) to get her husband's attention, I wanted to cheer.

Adrian was much harder to like. As the details of his family history unfold, some of his actions are understandable, but his initial treatment of his wife and later, his distrust of her, make it hard to believe that she could fall in love with him when she does.

Benedict also tries to get some revenge by deliberately poisoning the marriage. I initially felt a little sorry for him because he did seem to genuinely like Lilliana and want to marry her, but when he stirs up trouble, he hurts her as much as he does his brother.

One problem with The Dangerous Gentleman is that miscommunication is so often used as a plot device. There are too many times when Adrian doesn't listen to Lilliana or she won't ask him the question she needs to ask. Some of that is necessary to a story with this plot, but there was so much that it became tedious.

This is the first book of the series “The Rogues of Regent Street.” The tales of the two friends will be told in following books. If you like tales of redemption that take you to the depths before rising up, you will enjoy The Dangerous Gentleman. Just be prepared for the sober aspects of the story.

--B. Kathy Leitle


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