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Dancing With A Rogue
by Patricia Potter
(Berkley Sensation, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-425-19100-1
***
Revenge is a commonly used motivator for romance heroes, generally as a result of a wrong done to him or his family. Love often softens the person’s need for revenge and makes the revenge seem petty and not nearly so sweet. Dancing With A Rogue uses this motivation for both the hero and the heroine, thus creating a story about two bitter people. There is a lot of groundwork to be laid, so the story starts off slowly and only after all the stages are set does the pace pick up. Thus, it is an acceptable reading experience.

Merry Anders, aka Monique Freeman is a fine actress who has come to London to ply her trade. As Monique she is stunningly beautiful and talented. As Merry, she is the daughter of a woman who was ruined by a man with a title, left to die and forced to become a prostitute to survive. Merry grew up watching her mother wither away. She has vowed revenge on Thomas Kane, the Earl of Stanhope, who is her father. Monique is a wonderful actress. Her plan is to get close to Stanhope, steal from him and his friends, then try to frame him for some of the thefts. She is alone with her maid and friend Dani. Together they begin to lay the foundation.

Gabriel Manning is an American sea captain who has just inherited the title the Earl of Manchester from his grandfather. As a young boy in England, he was heir to that title, but it was stripped when his father was ruined and committed suicide. His father was involved with three men who forged his name on a shipping manifest and left him to take the blame when confronted with a shipment of rotten food and worthless weapons. While publicly he acts the American bumpkin, Gabriel is in fact a shrewd man intent on revenge. Now Gabriel hopes to enlist the “help” of the Earl of Stanhope and his two cronies in earning money through investments so he can then turn the tables on them - just like they did to his father.

Gabriel and Monique meet by accident several times, finding themselves intrigued and drawn to the other. Yet they keep their secrets and work simultaneously to try to ruin Stanhope. The tale is at times convoluted as you have two storylines standing side by side, complementing each other, yet seemingly working in opposition. Once Gabriel and Monique discover they are after the same man, they slowly begin to work together, yet are not ready to reveal all their secrets. They fall into lust and eventually into love, raising the question…Is revenge worth the price they may pay?

Stanhope has a plot of his own: he wants to lure Gabriel into proposing to his daughter Pamela and then ruin him, just like he did his father.

The side story about Pamela is entertaining, as she is portrayed as a shy miss who is afraid of her father and would rather stay in the country with her aunt. She has a beau there, one her father deems unsuitable, as he is a physician’s son who wants to study medicine. Pamela is a multi-dimensional character who is more interesting than any of the others. Her growth and emergence as a person is a fun thing to watch.

Monique/Merry is a woman who acts with strong convictions, but I could never fully believe she was so wronged that she would go to all this trouble for a woman who really did not provide her with much care and concern. Her actress friends did more for her than her mother, it seemed. Hence, it was difficult to support all her efforts.

Gabriel, on the other hand, had a reason for his hate. Yet, I struggled with how a boy could grow to be a man who is respected for his hard work and intelligence, with only hate as his motivator. He shows some soft sides and likable actions with both Pamela and Monique. It is hard to reconcile this with a man seeking revenge at all costs.

It is Potter’s skill at storytelling that keeps the reader engaged. The final 150 pages of this story is a taut melodrama with twists and turns and all the machinations of all the characters coming to a head. The outcome is never in doubt, but how it will come about is up for grabs until it is over.

If you like your stories with revenge as the driver of the main characters, and you enjoy a puzzling combination of ways to get that revenge, then Dancing With A Rogue will bring you enjoyment.

--Shirley Lyons


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