We all know I adore Anne Mallory. I think her name should be on the same list as Lorraine Heath and Julia Quinn, maybe just a half step (or not) below Courtney Milan and Sherry Thomas. (It’s so hard to line authors up by height when they won’t stop moving.) It’s established that I am quite fond of Seven Secrets Of Seduction, the first book in this loosely connected series. So did I love One Night Is Never Enough?
(Yes, but? Yes, and?) It surprised me. One Night blends one of my favorite (young self made street rat) and least favorite (lost in a card game) romance standards together. Roman Merrick is exceptional as the street rat in question. A card carrying member of the have-to-laugh-or-you’d-cry-club, Roman is charming and believable as a man who lives by his instincts. Charlotte isn’t the heroine I expected to emerge from Seven Secrets of Seduction. Instead of the plucky best friend, Anne Mallory has chosen to work with the discarded fiancee, the ice princess being sold to the highest title. Unlike most ice princesses, Charlotte revels in her control. Her desire to dominate society shows that what Charlotte hungers for most in life is power. Lots and lots of power. Roman has power in abundance, but it’s not the sort that’s useful to her. Rather like dating a guy with a coal mine when you’re trying to pull a stagecoach along. (I predict Charlotte will ultimately get the social power she desires as predicting Roman’s brother is the Lost Duke Of Something is like going out on a limb that’s already fallen and been bolted to the ground.)
So on to the ? mark. Anne Mallory’s books are always slightly different. In this case, she’s looking for a little added realism. If you’re a street rat who has scrabbled his way to the top, you had to get your paws pretty dirty on the way up. Other rats are always going to be grabbing your tail, trying to climb the pile themselves. Men who run gambling clubs are not renowned for their honesty. But in Romanceland, once you make it big you make it clean. The gangster on the top of the mountain is molded into the respected businessman on the top of the mountain, above the teeming masses he once dwelled among. No drive-by shootings here. (Would that be canter-by? Gallop-by? How would that work?) Not so with Roman Merrick. The book opens with him attacking an enemy, it closes with him reminding her that his is a life of criminals and crime, his is a life that will never offer safety for himself or those with him. He is a Bad Boy With A Heart Of Gold not a Man With A Past.
Charlotte is ok with it. After some reflection, I think I am too. After all of our heros being told it isn’t their fault, that the past is just that, the evil is gone, the trouble transported, the jails broken into, the cops paid off, we were due for a change. King Rat is always going to snap the neck of anyone who tries to take his cheese, and the rest of the rats are always going to make their play. Thug Life, Baby.
*I have to throw a quick cover note out here – blue and green, eye catching. That fist he’s making for no reason in her dress? Disturbing. She’s all relaxed lazy Sunday, and he’s all Olestra side effects. Look at his hairline, those are some cold sweats he’s got going on.