Portrait of Dreams

Wedding of the Year

Chasing A Rogue by Victoria Malvey
(Sonnet, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-7434-1885-9
It is with some hesitation that I give this Regency historical a recommendation, but the ultimately satisfying relationship between the two leads makes Chasing A Rogue a good bet.

First introduced in A Merry Chase, Steven Morris, the Earl of Heath, returns to London from his beloved country estate to find himself an heiress. This is as much of a surprise to him as to anyone. He had a fortune and was using it to fix up his country home. But his soliticitor has just informed him that his widowed mother ran through all their money while on tour in Europe and not only are they broke, but they are in major debt. So Steven sets out to capture an heiress, with advice from his old, now happily married, friend Royce, Earl of Tewksbury.

Harriet Nash is the best friend of Royce’s wife, Laurel. She remembers Steven fondly, and was a keen observer to the romance between her friend and Royce. Since she doesn’t know that Steven is only in the market for an heiress, she sets her cap for him, using Royce’s method of catching a groom…in reverse. Harriet sees the male as the hound, and she as the hunter - a twist on the male as the hound and female as the fox theory.

Sparks fly immediately between Harriet and Steven. Neither can deny their attraction. But Steven starts sending out mixed messages when he realizes that Harriet’s modest dowry will not get him out of debt. He is nice to her one minute, teasing and flirting, only to turn around and try to ignore her the next minute. Once Harriet realizes what is up with Steven, she engages him in a plan. She will help him get his heiress by promoting his good qualities and downplaying his past history as a rogue. In return, Steven is to show her how to flirt in order to win a wonderful husband. Of course, Steven accepts, and Harriet turns on the heat.

This story is character-driven and filled with sensuous lovemaking. Their mutual attraction leads to an affair and Harriet is determined to make Steven fall in love with her. Their sexual encounters border on the daring, while the banter and conversations are engaging and delightful.

The characters of Laurel and Royce add some spice and enliven the tale. The best-written “helpers” in the quest for spouses are Harriet’s two maidenly aunts. One, Agatha, is a widow, and supports Harriet in her endeavors. The other, Hilda, is a spinster who was seduced and then shunned by a cad. She is bound and determined that Harriet will not meet the same fate. The prattle between these two sisters is enlightening and endearing. When one adds Steven’s mother and several of their influential friends, the reader gets a glimpse of the elderly members of the ton rarely seen.

The hesitation for my recommendation comes from the plot itself. Beyond the sexual adventures, the loss of a fortune and the twists and turns encountered in the story seem contrived and sometimes silly. The whole plot comes down to someone trying to ruin Steven and the ultimate reason is weak. There are several times that Steven and Harriet engage in “misunderstandings” that lead to arguments that could have been easily solved. Although I enjoyed Harriet’s lack of guile and Steven’s charm, these were not their dominant traits. Yet, it was these traits they fell back on during these times of travail. It did not work for me and created a sense of frustration. Luckily, Malvey’s skill at developing the depth to the love they felt for each other was able to re-engage me fairly quickly, along with the sexual foreplay and encounters which brought a smile.

Overall, Chasing A Rogue is an entertaining romance with lots of sensual moments and a manufactured set of circumstances between two charming characters, who deserve their happy ending.

--Shirley Lyons

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