*lies prone on the floor in breathless rapture*
Okay, that's a little over the top. But this is a very romantic book, so it seems fitting.
This is the third installment of Heath's "Scoundrels of St. James" series and it's chock full of romancy goodness.
To be honest, though, I wasn't sure I was going to get into it. Our hero, Sterling (he appeared briefly in the first book, "In Bed with the Devil"), comes off as a real jerk. He was introduced in the earlier book as a bit of a stiff and continues that performance in the first couple of scenes. However, we see his cracks soon enough and he quickly becomes a hero to root for.
Frannie Darling ... what can I say? She's the girl of the group, the one the Scoundrels love and protect to the point of smothering, and she loves them back just as much. Their relationship is unique and very heartwarming. But they're not too jazzed at the Duke of Greystone cozying up to their girl.
Frannie and Sterling's connection is one of those instant ones that I have a hard time with. That's the second reason I thought I wouldn't ultimately like the story. But again, I was won over. When they do actually start talking to each other without the weirdness, their chemistry is evident in every scene, and that breakthrough happens early on so we're not trudging through mire trying to get to the inevitable.
Bad things have happened to Frannie. Sterling has experienced a few crummy moments as well, although nothing like what's happened to her. And he has a secret that will effect whomever he spends the rest of his life with, so his goal is to find a woman to marry that he won't care about. He's certain he'd lose her love anyway. What nice surprises are in store for him.
Again, Dickens plays a huge part, even shows up at one point, but I didn't have a problem with it. It's kind of a clever way to branch out from an existing story and that's fine with me.
So far I've really enjoyed Heath's work. This series hit me just where I needed it, right down to the incredibly thorough epilogue that caps this tale. An excellent balance of angst and joy, romance and hardship, It really hits the spot.
*picks self up off floor and brushes off carpet lint*
Obviously this series is Beanbag recommended. ;^)