Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: The Dangerous Viscount

The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club #2)The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read a lot of romance, and it's pretty rare for a romance to grab (and fondle?) me like this one did. I enjoyed Neville's other books but they didn't really worm their way into my mind like _The Dangerous Viscount_, which I re-read and then spent several days thinking about. This book is the second in the Burgundy Club series (her series about the sexiness of Regency book rare book collecting) and some characters in the first book are supporting characters in this book.

When Diana Fanshawe meets Sebastian Iverley, it's because she wants to marry his cousin, Lord Blakeney, who is a marquess. However, she likes Iverley, a book collector and Regency-era nerd--he's intelligent (when he's not grunting inarticulately), he fits in perfectly with her eccentric family, he's kind of good-looking behind the glasses and unfashionable clothes, and he's obviously, despite a lifetime of learned misogyny, attracted to her. So when Blakeney and his friends start to cast aspersions on Iverley's sexuality, Diana makes a bet that she can get him to kiss her. She is not aware that by making this bet, she's stumbling into the hornet's nest of Iverley's longstanding family rivalry with Blakeney, and his betrayal and abandonment issues. So when Iverley discovers the bet, he becomes determined on revenge. And his revenge is really, really awful. So Diana must, and does, in turn avenge herself. When things between them seem hopelessly beyond repair, fate steps in and throws them together again.

I think the most intriguing thing in this book is the psychological portrait of Iverley. He's at once intelligent but incredibly stupid, and a serious late bloomer when it comes to relationships with women. He's also a man divided--when he contemplates his revenge, you can see his better self fighting with the angry and betrayed man, and almost--but not quite--winning. And Diana not only stands up to him and holds her own, she helps him become a better man by the end of the book, one who can trust and love her and who is working to overcome his other issues. His nerdiness is both appealing and funny at times (his reaction to most developments in their relationship is to try to buy a book about what is going on, which turns out to be both hilarious and, at times, sexy).

This book also looks at women's choices, and how they are constrained. Minor characters include a mother who must choose between her marriage and her child; a woman grateful to have the choice between being a servant and not a mine worker; and a woman grateful to have the choice between being a servant and being a prostitute. And Diana's and Iverley's actions--good or bad-- also constrain their future choices in ways that may be unhappy at times but that also make redemption possible.

Last but not least, a number of the minor characters in this book are developed very well. Diana's French maid Chantal, her sister Min the teenage Radical, and Blakeney himself are so interesting as characters you want to read more about them; Blakeney and Min could sustain books of their own. (But not a romance between Blakeney and Min! That would be so wrong).

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