Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can’t escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he’s not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning, he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she’s his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.
While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can’t be denied, regardless of consequences. So when Ophelia’s memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.
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Publisher and Release Date: Avon, September 2014
Time and Setting: Victorian London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Caz
Drake Darling – born Peter Sykes and the son of a convicted murderer – is now a successful businessman and, as the adopted son of the Duke and Duchess of Greystone, has been fully accepted into London society. Being both attractive and wealthy, Drake is never short of female admirers, although there is one woman who refuses to see him as anything other than a lowly street-rat and who treats him at every opportunity as though he’s worse than anything she could want scraped off the bottom of her shoe.
Lady Ophelia Lyttleton is beautiful and much sought after, but she’s cold, standoffish and, to Drake, downright unpleasant and rude. She has been brought up to be very mindful of her standing in society and to look down on those who are of lesser station, although right from the start, it’s clear that there is something else fuelling her intense dislike for him.
On a late night walk, Drake pulls an unconscious woman from the Thames, not realising until he gets her home that it is Lady Ophelia. When she eventually comes round, she has no idea who she is or why she was in the river – and doesn’t recognise Drake either. He knows it’s not kind, but he decides to exact a small revenge on her for her horrible treatment of him, and tells her that she’s his housekeeper. He only intends the deception to last for a day, after which he will return her home. But when he realises that Ophelia – Phee – may be in danger from someone in her family, he decides to delay her return while he investigates. In the time they spend together, he finds himself becoming fascinated by the young woman who is emerging from behind the previously iron-clad exterior.
And Phee, while she is initially dismissive of Drake’s assertion that she is his servant, soon finds enjoyment in her new role, discovering a joy and freedom she’s never experienced before in doing things for others. She is also more than a little attracted to her employer – a complicated man who insists he is not kind or good, but whose actions towards her and others continually prove otherwise.
I confess I’m wary of stories which use amnesia as a plot device, but having very much enjoyed the previous book in this series (When the Duke Was Wicked) and others by this author, I trusted that Ms Heath would be able to make it work – and that trust was not misplaced.
Right from the first moment we meet the snobbish, shrewish Ophelia, the author drops hints that perhaps there is something more to her than meets the eye; No man would ever love her enough to forgive her for what she’d once done, and it was a secret she could not forever keep from a husband. The reader is obviously meant to dislike her intensely because of the way she treats Drake, but I found her intriguing and almost deserving of sympathy because in spite of her beauty and social advantages, she is clearly a very unhappy young woman.
And Drake, who has made something of himself in spite of his humble origins, is also struggling with his own inner demons, never feeling that he is good enough for the position he occupies, persisting in believing himself tainted by his father’s heinous crimes and thus not worthy of the deep affection shown him by his family – and most definitely not deserving of affection of a more romantic nature.
The thing about this particular amnesia plotline is that it doesn’t work in quite the way one would expect it to. Of course, it gives Phee a chance to look at Drake with a fresh pair of eyes, free from prejudice and prior knowledge of him, and allows her to own her attraction to him and come to know the kind and honourable man he truly is. More importantly, however, it enables Phee to come to him with a clean slate. Freed from the awful memories which have cheated her of happiness and the ability to enjoy her life; freed from the memories of her authoritarian father’s strictures, she can finally let her true self have free rein, and we see her transformation from the emotionally crippled woman we first met into a funny, kind-hearted and compassionate woman who is able to love without shame or fear.
Drake’s manipulation of Ophelia into believing herself his servant may have been unkind, but it seems to me to be a very human reaction. Who wouldn’t want to get their own back after receiving such treatment as Ophelia meted out to him? The fact that he allows the deception to continue beyond his original intentions is perhaps not the most honourable thing he has done – but then Drake doesn’t consider himself an honourable man, and deep down, knows he will deserve every horrible epithet Ophelia can throw at his head when all is revealed.
And he has an emotional journey to make, as well. I don’t mind admitting that the part near the end when he finally comes to understand the truth about his fathers brought tears to my eyes.
Once More My Darling Rogue is an emotionally satisfying read which features two flawed characters who have to confront dark events in their pasts if they are to move forward both individually and together. Drake and Phee are strongly drawn, the romance develops at a steady and believable pace, and Ms Heath writes with a lot of tenderness and gentle humour. I enjoyed reading it and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
They were so young, the ladies who smiled and batted their lashes at him. Even the ones who were on the far side of five and twenty were too innocent for his tastes. They were all light and airy as though burdens were unknown to them, as though life encompassed nothing more than enjoyment. He preferred his women with a bit more seasoning to them, savory, spicy, and tart.
An exception to his preference for the tart had arrived. The haughtiness of the voice set his teeth on edge. He should have known he’d not escape her notice for the entire evening. That Lady Ophelia Lyttleton was one of Grace’s dearest friends was beyond his comprehension. He didn’t understand why the sister of his heart associated with such an arrogant miss when Grace was the sweetest, gentlest person he’d ever known. Stubborn to be sure, but she hadn’t a mean bone in her body. Lady Ophelia could not claim the same. Her presence at his back proof enough.
The ladies who had been gifting him with their attention blinked repeatedly and went silent for the first time in more than two hours. Because they were there, because he was striving to give the appearance of being a gentleman, he would spare Lady Ophelia the embarrassment of ignoring her. Even though he suspected he would pay a price for his generosity. He always paid the price. The lady was quite adept at delivering stinging barbs.
Slowly he turned and arched a brow at the woman whose head failed to reach his shoulder. And yet in spite of her diminutive size, she managed to give the appearance of looking down on him. It was her long, pert, slender nose that tipped up ever so slightly on the end. She had been a constant aggravation whenever she visited with Grace and crossed paths with him. But devil’s mistress that she was, she was very careful to slight him only when Grace wasn’t about to witness her set-downs. Because he loved Grace too much to upset her—and she would be appalled to know he and her friend were not on particularly pleasant terms—he had borne Lady Ophelia’s degradations, convinced that he was walking the high ground while she was slogging along in the muck.
It made no sense to him that such a beauty could be such a resounding termagant. Her green eyes with the oval, exotic slant were challenging him with a sharpness that could slice into one’s soul if he weren’t careful. While he was twelve years her senior, as she had grown toward womanhood, she had mastered the art of making him feel as though he were a dog living in the quagmire of the gutters again. Not that others among the aristocracy hadn’t made him feel the same from time to time, but still it irked more so when she was the one responsible for the cut to his pride.
“Boy,” she repeated with a touch more arrogance, “do fetch me some champagne, and be quick about it.” As though he were a servant, as though he lived to serve her. Not that he found fault with those who served. Theirs was a more noble undertaking and their accomplishments far outstripped anything she might ever manage. She, who no doubt nibbled on chocolates in bed while reading a book, without thought regarding the effort that had gone behind placing both in her hand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LORRAINE HEATH always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals and computer code, but something was always missing. After reading a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s RITA® and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.