Julia Miller is shocked to find the battered up face of her elusive fiancee' staring back at her after he left England and disappeared without a trace all those years ago.
Richard Allen is dangerously in love with the wife of a formidable English nobleman (the beloved James Mallory, see 'Gentle Rogue') and can't help himself when an opportunity to clap eyes on James' wife again comes about.
He fled England 9 years ago to escape the controlling manipulations of his father, the Earl of Manford, and is now dismayed when his precarious foray back to London puts him face to face with the one woman he detests the most; his fiancee'.
For 9 long years, Julia Miller and her fortune were held firmly on the shelf. Betrothed practically from infancy, Julia held no illusions as to why her presumable husband-to-be left England and never came back. They threatened each other with consequences of death multiple times, and Julia even managed to draw blood from Richard on more than one occasion when their tempers couldn't be reigned in. Finally determined to put the past behind her and take the reigns of her future, Julia begins to contemplate the best way to rid herself of her troublesome marriage contract to Richard Allen and start her life anew. She hopes for the chance to engage all of society as a woman in search of a husband of her choosing, but fate had other plans.
At the masquerade ball being thrown in honor of Georgina Mallory's birthday, friends and family from near and far all come together to celebrate. Little do they know, amidst the crush of party-goers, the 'Frenchmen sailor' moving among them is not only a party crasher, but the missing son of an Earl. Richard Allen left home 9 years ago, determined to make it on his own, fell into piracy and came out on the other side of things with the help of his loyal friends. Richard was the second son of the Earl of Manford and once his eldest brother married well-socially-, it was up to him to marry well-financially-. His father never showed him any semblance of love or affection and tried to control every aspect of Richard's life until one day, he had enough and took matters into his own hands.
Back in London for a short visit, Richard tries to avoid detection by both those from his former life and the husband of the woman he is dangerously infatuated with. Suffice to say, nothing goes according to plan and he comes face to fist with James Mallory and face to face with the woman he left behind.
Julia is in a rage once she discovers Richard is back and she tries to settle the matter of their betrothal before he get the chance to takes off again. When Richard is also discovered by his father, he is given an ultimatum: either marry Julia or be 'taught a lesson' and transported to Australia as a 'convict'. The latter is forced on him when he refuses to marry just to fill his father's pockets, and it is Julia (with the help of a reluctant James Mallory & friends) who saves him from his horrid fate.
Once Richard is safely off the transport ship, he and Julia come to a 'truce' of sorts and put their differences aside so that they may devise a plan to steal the marriage contract which has ruled their lives thus far and destroy it. The plan was simple: pretend to be in love to gain entry into the Earl's home, search for the contract and dispose of it, and FINALLY move on with their lives. But, as their feelings for each other start to grow more intense, their plan backfired and they now have to face the consequences together. The hero and heroine are both stubborn as mules, but eventually they learn to be honest with themselves and each other and soon realize that they are with their 'Perfect Someone'.
Rating: 3 1/2 Red Roses
My Favorite Part of the Book: Is when Richard is saved from being transported to Australia, and at first has no knowledge that it is Julia who helped put the rescue party together. He says something mean to her and then she gets upset and runs off. The others in the cabin who witness this call him out on his stupidity and he goes after her to try and make things right. In the heat of his apology, some old feelings are stirred up and as Richard comforts Julia, they begin to feel some undeniable sexual tension. The whole sequence of scenes were sweet, sensual and full of emotion and I loved them!Overall, you're guaranteed to find something to love about this book. Like the main character's struggle to remember exactly why they hated each other all those years ago, the side plot of Richard's true paternity, or the wonderful cameos by some Mallory series favorites. Towards the end of the novel, it feels as though the story is being prolonged. Once Julia and Richard decide to be honest about their feelings, the whole point of the second ship voyage to the Caribbean is misleading and pointless. I thought something more dramatic was going to happen. The book tried to do a little too much, and some elements weren't developed pace-wise to their full potential, which threw the book off a little, but you'll still find plenty of reasons to finish the book with a smile on your face.
*Why not try one of the earlier novels in the Mallory/Anderson Series, 'Gentle Rogue', Georgina and James' Story!