"A Remarkable Conclusion to the Malloren Series"
While I loved all the Malloren tales, Rothgar's story ran
as a thread throughout the saga, for he is the backbone of
this family. I opened this book with great anticipation and
much trepidation. Jo's excellent track record not
withstanding, there is always the potential for great
disappointment when one has had to wait so long for a much
desired story. Had Diana had to win Rothgar's love, or had
he discovered after great peril that he couldn't live
without her, I would have been sorely disappointed.
Mallorens choose, they can't be won, and once having chosen
they are as constant as the sun. However the two
acknowledged their feelings from the start. The battle is
within Rothgar himself to conquer his demons (as it should
have been). I found myself saying "exactly" repeatedly. I
also loved that Rothgar has finally become Bey, an
approachable human man with frailties like every other
human being, though it doesn't by any means diminish him as
the "eminence noire". Brilliantly handled, if ever I
doubted for a minute that the characters talk to Jo, I will
not make that mistake twice!
Someone wants Rothgar dead. An uneasy peace hangs between
the British and the French. Bey finds himself a part of a
contrived duel to avenge an insult to Chastity Malloren
Bey and Bryght suspect the expert duelist is in league with
the French who would benefit by putting him out of
commission, for the Marquess has the ear of the king in
these matters. His advice does not coincide with their
plans in the least. Having dispatched the offender, the
family prepares to attend the wedding of Brand and Rosa in
Yorkshire where Rothgar is once more brought into the
sphere of the Countess Arradale, Diana.
No fool, Rothgar has acknowledged his attraction to the
countess, but as he has firm intentions never to marry (due
to his mother's madness), he has wisely limited his stay to
three days. Diana for her part is just as determined to
remain free of entanglements, though she is just as
intrigued by the enigmatic Marquess. A missive from the
king, commanding Rothgar to escort Diana to court, thwarts
their good intentions. The very thing that makes Diana
Bey's equal has won her disfavor with the king. In the
unique position of being a female peer of the realm she has
petitioned the king for the right to hold her seat
Parliament. This has alerted the king to her "unnatural"
leanings and he is determined to wed her to someone who
will keep her in line.
Bey advises Diana to act the proper
young lady for fear she will be thought mad if she
expresses her true nature, but promises to support her to
the extent of offering marriage, in name only, if the
situation becomes untenable. By now Diana is aware that her
feelings for Bey run deep and is certain they are
reciprocated. She agrees to follow his advice, for though a
true marriage to the man would be heaven; a marriage in
which they would lead separate lives would truly be hell.
Those good intentions are thwarted as well as the plot
continues to remove Rothgar from the king's sphere. They
are attacked along the road. The attack is not unexpected,
however the situation requires Diana to use her
considerable skill with pistols to save the life of her
beloved. Shaken by the encounter the two drop their guard
celebrate life in a time-honored manner. The armor cracks
a bit more.
It had seemed that the king had accepted the Marquess's
determination never to marry, but once Diana arrives at
court she is plied with unacceptable suitors and it becomes
obvious that the king wishes a match between Diana and
Bey. The king has put a deadline on her choice of mate.
She must choose immediately following a masquerade thrown
by the Marquess. Should she fail to choose the king would
for her. Diana does her best to ensure that Bey is not
ensnared in the trap, but she relishes his visits and he
cannot seem to stay away. To deflect attention she
inadvertently over encourages one of her suitors who
unwittingly becomes caught up in the plot to eliminate
Rothgar. She is kidnapped. Bey barely rescues her in time.
Another chink in the armor.
It has become apparent to Bey that he can not let Diana go
to another, but an incident at the Queen's house reinforces
his fears about his suitability to father the next heir to
the Malloren line.
The plot shifts to his internal struggle. He retreats into
himself and as the masquerade begins his family is greatly
worried for him. Will this man of power and courage find
the strength to let his heart rule his head? As the event
begins Diana searches the room for him, but he finds her.
It appears as if all that is well will end well, but it is
too much to ask that the French will not make a move this
night. Will love make the Marquess vulnerable or strong?
Will Bey's strong protective streak cost the pair their
hard fought happiness or will Diana risk all to defend her
This was a marvelous ending to Rothgar's story but
hopefully not the last we see of the Mallorens. Young
Victor Ware (brother of Fort, Verity, and Chastity) is due
to arrive home from his Grand Tour. Dare we hope he will be
hero material? It would be lovely to get a glimpse of the
happy Mallorens down the road apiece particularly if the
Marquess becomes a doting father. I have no doubt it will
be so, for he did a remarkable job of raising his siblings
after all. I'd dearly love to see Fort in the role of the
mentor (he is my other favorite). Either way, it was a true
delight to find at last that Rothgar has found the love he
so richly deserved and with a woman who deserved him. "The
gods were indeed exceedingly kind!"
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted October 22, 2001