The Governess Wears Scarlett by Sari Robins
Abigail West is a 23- year old governess who has been ruined by her former lordly employer whom proclaimed love but predictably abandoned her once the heat was turned on. In an act of revenge her brother "Reggie" steals an important item from her employer who promptly puts a warrant out for his arrest he is forced to go into hiding. Abby gpes to London in the hopes of finding Reggie and luckily a placement officer takes a liking to her and places her with the newly titled, and widow(er)ed, Viscount Steele who serves as Solicitor General to the Crown, a fancy lawyer. She is instructed to take care of his wife's nephews.
Steele also serves as a masked vigilante, prowling the streets of London and coincidentally Abby has taken to roaming the streets as a widow in an attempt to find her brother. This leads to danger and Steele is more than happy to rescuer her, however since both wear masks, or veils, neither is aware of the others identity. Unhampered by society's rules, the two engage in trysts in an ally and later a dusty street vendors shop. Meanwhile in real life, both are feeling an tendre for each other but are unable to act on it, especially while it becomes obviously someone is out to hurt both Reggie and the two young boys Abby is supposed to be protecting. The director of London Underworld, numerous street ruffians, and a disgruntled relative are involved in the rather far-fetched plot that is tidily cleaned up in the last 25 pages.
I have three rather large qualms with this books: the complete "goodness" of the characters, the sex, and the discovery of their joint deceptions. Both the hero and the heroine are just too "good" at loving the children, at putting the children before themselves, at doing anything to make the children happy. This is how it should be of course, but to have it hammered into my head repeatedly, and to seemingly be the only reason for either character fall in love with the other, well that is just frustrating. As for the sex- their were exactly two scenes, which were admittedly very hot, both took place while masked, in unorthodox locations and while the characters did not know each others identity and while both were almost entirely dressed. Neither was an expression of love or deeper feeling, just physical desire, which is fine in a thin contemporary but in a 370 page historical I expect a few small scenes leading up to the culmination and at least a little mushiness. The truth of who they are is not discovered until practically the last page and instead of being angry, scared, hurt, wary, or any other of the wonderfully angsty emotions I would have loved, and expected from such a plot. Instead they were both ecstatic and nothing was brought up about the other sleeping with a complete stranger in a darkened alley.
One of the best parts of this novel is their relationship to other characters. Steele's deceased wife Diedre is neither martyred nor demonized as so many former spouses are in romance novels. Steele was deeply in love with her, yet does not constantly brood about her death and does not decry the idea of ever falling in love with her again. Diedre's father also plays a small, but interesting part of the disapproving father-in-law who one both loves and hates because he is so human but so flawed in ways everyone can sympathize with. Both the children in the book are wonderful as well; they are not pretentious as most romance novel children seem to be, yet they are not clowingly annoying 4-year olds. And Abby's relationship with her brother is amazing, especially at the end when she comes to an important realization about herself and him- it was beautiful to read and one of my favorite scenes. I can not decide whether I liked the "adventure" plot or not as I tend not to get into the murder/Bow Street/spy plots that haunt most romance novels, but at least it was a built in part of the story and not just thrown in there for added excitement.
Rating this novel was difficult, but then I realized the rating should ultimately come down to how the two characters were with each other and how much I enjoyed reading about them and their relationship.