Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath
Midnight Pleasures is an addition to Heath's series about Feagan's gang of child thieves and tells the story of James Swindler, the youngest of the bunch. Eleanor Watkins goes to London after her sister Elisabeth commits suicide. Eleanor reads her journal and discovers that she had been led down quite the scandalous path by Lord Rockberry and Eleanor is determined to get revenge against the man who corrupted her sister. Rockberry at first thinks he is being followed by a ghost but then goes to Scotland Yard where he enlists the help of their best man, James Swindler, to follow the young woman. Eleanor knows she is being followed and she is not quite sure how to deal with this new development before James rescues her from three men set on nefarious deeds. That first night that James escorts her home he is eager to drop her off and get on with his life but when he sees her the next day outside her rented room something is different. Suddenly she smells better, she talks to him, she is interested in him, and James can not help but want to spend more time with this young lady and he takes her to gardens, on a balloon ride, to see fireworks, and sightseeing around London.
It is not long before James realizes that this is more than just a job to him and he enlists the help of his powerful friends to give Eleanor one happy night at a ball. The night turns out magical and Eleanor knows that she wants the night to be even more special so she accompanies James back to his rooms where everything is as perfect as they both imagined. Unfortunately during this romantic interlude Rockberry is killed and his brother says he saw Eleanor at the house leaving her as the only suspect. James is quick to speak out as Eleanor's alibi for the evening and he knows and is prepared to accept the consequences, in fact he's not at all upset to marry her. But before questioning can really begin Eleanor disappears and when James finally manages to track her down, with lots of help from his highly placed friends, he discovers that Eleanor has been keeping quite the secret from him. Now it is up to James, and those highly placed friends of his, to see to it that the woman he loves, the woman who makes him happy and whom he knows he wants to spend the rest of his life with, does not ended up rotting away in jail... or worse.
Heath is definitely trying to inject a darker quality to this book than to her other books in the series. They all have had some gloom and doom elements as they were former thieves who had lived a hard life on the streets, but it was taken to a new level here. From the opening I was left with the immediate impression that this was going to be more of a mystery than a romance. Although the novel did turn out that way I actually kind of liked it and the mystery and the romance were blended very well. This was a murder mystery (maybe two really) that I really enjoyed and it had that added benefit of a nicely written romance thrown in. Heath did an amazing job at this mystery and I there were some really surprising twists and turns thrown in that I did not disclose in my summary as they really made the book as good as it was. There were extra surprises and people who turned out to be far more complex than I had originally thought and the book itself really played out so nicely. I can also say there was a nice little side romance at the end there which was nice as I was a little worried about that character (although I can't say who without giving anything away).
This book was book-ended by two amazingly well written novels and that really did not work out well for this novel as for some reason I have just never really thought of Heath's writing as particular good really. It's fast, really very fast, and fun for sure, but it really is just not as intriguing and detailed and beautiful as both Kleypas or London. There was quite a bit of love making in this novel which was good as the rest of it did tend to get a bit dark, but it was honestly rather boring and I actually ended up spacing out for some of it oddly enough. This ended up being a problem for sure as I really felt as though the romance and buildup of their relationship was sorely lacking here. It just happened wham bam I'm "drawn" to her ma'am. As part of a series this book features quite a few reunions of the other members of Feagan's gang and it definitely started to get more than a little irritating. I found it especially odd that James had had this great love for Frannie darling and yet one day spent with Eleanor was enough to cure him of this decade long infatuation.
Rating: This book was very good as far as mystery and adventures went but really could have used some work on the romantic elements.