Daring the Duke

The Viscountís Wicked Ways
by Anne Mallory
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 006-087292-6
Mallory is the Winter 2006 Rising Star winner and this first novel is well written and enjoyable. The Viscountís Wicked Ways showcases her potential.

Patience Harrington is a young debutante who has had more than her fair share of social disasters. She says the wrong things at the wrong time, opens the wrong doors at the wrong times and in general, is the epitome of Murphy ís Law throughout her first season. The reason is a reputation that is far from accurate, including descriptions of fast behavior. But she is also an antiquarian. She loves studying and cataloging antiques. Her father is a master assigned to the Museum, so she is shipped to the country for the summer in hopes that the gossips will soon forget. Patience travels to Blackfield Castle at the request of the widow of the former Viscount so that a collection of antiques can be donated to the Museum.

Her team consists of a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Teckley and their nephew, John. Mr. Teckley and John each study certain aspects of the collection and Mrs. Teckley, a sour-faced matron, serves as the secretary to all three of them. Upon arrival, they discover what appears to be a rather gothic and sometimes scary castle. There are rumors of monsters and weird goings-on. And the biggest concern seems to be the new viscount, Thomas Ashe.

Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that there are weird goings-on and Thomas and his men seem to have more than their share of secrets. There are booms in the night, unusual lights in the garden, and a set of outbuildings that have been declared off limits to the guests. Thomas and his men speak of the concern of spies, leading one to believe they are involved in something nefarious. All of this of course, leads Patience to want to know more and convinces her she needs to figure out what appears to be a puzzle.

Her nosiness leads Thomas to suspect her and her team. Thomas decides to keep her close and sets out to seduce her to find out what she is up to. Patience is amazed that a man as attractive as Thomas would seek out her company and seem interested in her work. One of her downfalls in London was letting on how smart she was. Now here is a man asking her questions, despite a sense that he disapproves of people interested in antiques.

The story moves along as they discover more about each other and as several attempts of spying are discovered and thwarted. Patience falls for Thomas, as he shows her his gentlemanly side and his romantic side, in essence ďhis wicked waysĒ. Thomas finds himself intrigued by Patience and confounded by her apparent innocence, since he believes many of the rumors he has heard. The love story and seduction are engaging and it is fun to see these two journey through attraction and ultimately love for each other.

The mystery and intrigue are less than enthralling. The sense of some monumental invention or discovery is built throughout the story. When revealed, it was less than climatic and almost downplayed in significance. The revelation of the identity of the spy was also short shifted and seemed hurried. This left me feeling a bit deflated by all the hoopla.

Mallory shows that she can write a good romance. She just needs a little work on building the tale around the romance. Overall, Thomas and Patience are an engaging couple and their story is one to take a look at. The Viscountís Wicked Ways is a fun way to spend some time and is quite respectable for a debut novel.

--Shirley Lyons

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