Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: One Night in London by Caroline Linden

Publishers really like trilogies. If a reader is hooked by the first book, they are all but guaranteed to go on to books two and three, a winning scenario for the publisher and the author. I freely admit I enjoy books in series but I have the odd stipulation that I want them to be complete in and of themselves. I don't want to be compelled to go on to have closure in a story, although I fully intend to keep reading if I enjoy the first book enough. Romances not only lend themselves nicely to giving me the happy ending I sometimes require, but they also tend to have series where each story is complete within a larger framework. While this historical romance by Linden is the first in a series and tells the love story of Edward, the pragmatic middle son of the Duke of Durham and the widowed Lady Francesca Gordon, it has a larger tale to it that doesn't conclude within its pages, leaving the reader with a cliffhanger which ostensibly won't be tied up until the third book. This makes me crabby and it is no exception here but I will forgive it because I enjoyed the love story enough to keep me willing to read the second installment.

The Duke of Durham is on his deathbed as the novel opens and he is terribly agitated, needing to tell his heir something incredibly important. But his heir is a rake and a bit of a gadfly and it falls to pragmatic, clinical, middle brother Edward to find out what is so bothering their father. What he learns, that his father was married before he married their mother and was never officially divorced, could not only ruin the de Lacey brothers in society but strip them of their inheritance and legitimacy. And so Edward hires the best soliciter money can buy to help come up with a legal defense and protect their interests in case it becomes necessary.

But Edward's hiring of this legal top gun means that Lady Francesca Gordon, who had all but secured the man's services herself, will have to find someone else to help her win custody of her orphaned niece. She's so furious with Edward de Lacey that she vows she will force him to help her himself. And so starts their association with each other. Edward, as an honorable man, cannot turn the lady down, especially when he sees how heartfelt she is in her desire and love for this little girl and her fear for the child when Georgina's stepmother disappears with her. It doesn't hurt that she also holds the power to make the tabloid writer who printed the news about the possible loss of the de Lacey's inheritance retract or at least soften his story.

As Edward and Francesca work together to find Georgina and to come up with the best possible case to grant the impetuous Francesca custody, they find they are incredibly attracted to each other. Their chemistry is quite believable and grows organically rather than being forced simply to fit the story's need. This is very much a story of opposites attracting, each lending balance to the other until a misunderstanding rooted in their very different personalities could drive them apart.

The question of the de Lacey brothers' legitimacy is completely unresolved here and doesn't promise to be resolved in the next book: youngest son, the hotheaded Gerard's story either. While the novel ends with the ending romance readers expect and require, other sub-plot threads are resolved in completely unexpected and yet wholly appropriate ways. The other two de Lacey brothers are intriguing, which bodes well as they both have their own novels following this one. And the other secondary characters are mostly appealing and make worthwhile additions to the story. Historical romance readers will be quite satisfied with this start to Linden's trilogy.

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