Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress by Anne Lethbridge 617
After forging her brother's signature and losing the funds she invested, Lady Eleanor Hadley is horrified when the Marquess of Beauworth calls in a mortgage on the family's house that she had no knowledge of. So she decides to take to the highway and rob wealthy travelers and one of her first victims is the Marquess himself. He is quite upset but that doesn't stop him from stealing a kiss from her before she knocks him unconscious. Garrick Le Clere is back in town to let his uncle, Duncan Le Clere, know that he plans on going off to fight in France instead of learning the ins and outs of being the Marquess. Duncan has been holding down the fort for years and he has been notoriously overprotective of Garrick as they both have inherited the Le Clere curse; they both suffer from intense rages where they lose sight of right and wrong and forget what they're doing. Meanwhile Garrick has made friends with the lovely village girl, Ellie Brown, and for once he finds that his affections are town by the tender and innocent Ellie and the beautiful and vivacious highway woman.
When he sets a trap to capture the woman he ends up the one who is trapped. When it is revealed the innocent Ellie is Miss Moonlight, Eleanor decides to proposition the Marquess in exchange for helping her out of the financial difficulties. He agrees but he still does not know her true identity and quickly finds himself falling for her. When her brother, Baron Castlefield, returns, Eleanor is kidnapped by Duncan who believes the Hadley's have a letter that may prove that Duncan killed his own mother. In the aftermath Eleanor and Garrick part, each believing they are not good enough for the other and are not wanted; and they do not reunite for another four years. Garrick desperately wants to find this letter, but Eleanor insists she does not know its' whereabouts. But with war looming Garrick has no choice but to leave Eleanor for duty, but when he returns he knows he needs to start over, but first they need to finally capture Duncan le Clere and clear the way for them to make a new life.
Eleanor was a very well developed character who underwent a lot of change throughout the book, especially during the two time jumps. I may not have agreed with her choices, but she was quite the heroine as she used some great sword maneuvers on several occasions to save the day. Loved that! The highway woman was a little odd, but I guess I was supposed to sense that she was very take charge and wanted to fix her mistakes. Garrick was a little trickier and I don't really buy into the crazy rage thing he had going on, but I did enjoy his being torn between his feelings for Eleanor, trying to keep her safe, his duty, and his family. The two spent a decent enough amount of time together to warrant the development of some great feelings and I did really like the scenes where they were being lovey with each other although I wish there had been more. The sex between them was good and somewhat hot but more importantly it was sweet and came at some beautiful moments in the story so that it showed how much they felt for each other.
I was a little thrown by the book picking up four years later as it is certainly unusual for a jump to occur so late in the book, but I did like that it gave both Garrick and Eleanor to grow up a little bit and learn more about themselves. And there was another time jump in the middle of the book that also worked well, but it could have been better spent with Eleanor and Garrick together. There was a lot going on in this plot from Duncan le Clere to who killed Garrick's mother to who really hurt Eleanor's brother to whether Garrick was a spy for the French. It was all resolved, but I felt maybe one less mystery- maybe the whole war part, could have been dispensed with, something else fleshed out more, and the story would have been fine. I felt as though a lot of confusion could have been avoided if Eleanor had been honest with Garrick from the start and there was quite a lot of mistrust throughout the book that led to many of the problems. The side characters were great throughout the story and another romance in the
series may or may not have been set up.
Rating: Two interesting characters and the book certainly kept me reading but I felt like there was just too much going on in the story and in the end there were just too many secrets.