~ FIRST HALF WAS GOOD AND THEN IT WENT DANGEROUSLY DOWNHILL!! (2 stars) ~
This is the second book in Foley's "Inferno Club" series and follows MY WICKED MARQUESS, which came out June of last year. Neither one garnered a high rating from me, let alone reread status, and they both proved that Gaelen Foley is definitely one of those "hit or miss" authors for me. MY DANGEROUS DUKE was a miss, but it did not start out that way!
[Cornwall, London, and the Orkney islands off the coast of Scotland - 1816]
When Kate Madsen (22) is first introduced to "the Beast," aka Rohan Kilburn, the Duke of Warrington (34), it's after having been kidnapped, imprisoned for five weeks in a cellar, drugged with laudanum, and made up - and dressed down - to look like a prostitute. She's a "gift" for the Duke of Warrington, whose smuggler tenants are trying to appease him, as well as get him involved and implicated in a bigger mess than he realizes. He is instantly aroused by the woman and is glad to gain some recompense for having to take time off from his busy spy-assassin-sleeping-around lifestyle, go to one of his least favorite properties, and deal with some villagers' illegal activities. Rohan shortly discovers that Kate is not whom - or rather what - he thought she was, however he is nonetheless intrigued and attracted.
Kate has been through a very trying few weeks and this is only compounded by the fact that she's about to be handed over to a man nicknamed "the Beast" so that she can for all intent and purposes be his sex slave. Although they got off to a rocky start, Kate warily begins to trust this man who leaves her alone that night because she passes out, saves her when she's about to fall off a cliff, and becomes becomes outraged upon discovering that she was kidnapped and forced into this prostitute-charade (and that's all within the first 24 hours of meeting him!). The attraction between them is palpable, yet they spend a week ignoring it and settling into an uneasy truce and friendship, while they try and untangle why she was kidnapped and who is behind it.
Rohan's family has long been part of the Order of St. Michael the Archangel, "the good guys" on earth who are fighting against "the most evil bad guys imaginable," the Prometheans. After Kate is lucid enough to tell him she was brought there against her will, he is determined to find out who was behind this plot and why. It quickly becomes apparent that this is not some random kidnapping, but is directly connected to the overall Order vs. Prometheans battle. Untangling this mess will take them from Rohan's haunted castle in Cornwall, to the crowded and partying city of London, to a treasure-hunt and series of Indiana-Jones-type-tests in the Orkney islands. Through all this, people thought dead will reappear, allegiances will be questioned, love and trust will be tested, and ultimately Kate will have to decide if she is strong enough to love this dark and tortured man, and Rohan will have to decide if he is strong enough to let her - and love her in return. (I don't know where these corny last liners come from, but I can't seem to help myself!)
As I said before, the book started off strong. I knew from the series' first book that the whole Order vs. Prometheans theme is complex, convoluted, and stretches across the series, however that didn't really bother me until the second half of the book, when things started to go downhill in other areas.
We begin with a sheltered, bookish, lonely, young woman who is lost, completely alone in the world, doesn't know who to trust, is understandably wary, yet is also kind and surprisingly brave. She's been living alone in her little isolated cottage with just her books and herself for company, ever since her guardian died 18 months ago. Her mother died when she was only 5 and her father, whom she was separated from at that time, died five years after that. She longs for adventure and to go out and experience the world, but feels safer within her familiar and comfortable cottage.
Her co-star is an all-around bad-boy assassin who has spent years sleeping around like no other. Yes, the Order guys are supposed to nurture their "bad-boy" reputations, but Rohan seems to do so all too willingly and we are told in the first few pages that he is used to having a "daily dose of sex." He is a very lonely man - both due to the nature of his work and because he has no living family members. Although he knows that what he does is necessary, he feels profound guilt for the many lives he has taken and the families that are left behind.
Great, right? Very dark-tortured-hero meets bookish-shy-sweet-heroine and love-will-conquer-all-in-the-end. It very much reminded me of Foley's LORD OF FIRE, the second book in her Knight Miscellany and a wonderful read.
So yes, it's all great ... right up until the point where they sleep together. No joke! The book was going great - I enjoyed the interactions and their relationship was progressing at a realistic and reasonable pace. There are cute, funny, tender, and hot moments, and you're looking forward to even more. The lead-up to them making love - and then the actual "making" part (lol) - was well-written and great and I was totally with it ... but they sleep together and the next morning, the book begins a rapid free fall.
Kate, whom we *thought* we knew, apparently decides to go into personality-shifting overload, because the morning after giving up her virginity, she very easily makes the switch into a lovey-dovey seductive mistress who is very forthright about her sexuality and her lust for the hero. Now I'm not against that type of heroine, but that is NOT who Kate is ... well, it's not who she was, but apparently one night with the Duke will *truly* be a life-changing - or at least personality-altering - experience. I also became sick of hearing about the enormity of Rohan's sexual appetite, as well as how well-endowed he is - I mean we get it already, he's abnormally "notoriously" (that word is used), big. Enough!
My second problem arose with her sudden insight into Rohan as a dark, lonely, and love-starved man who just needs her devotion and pure love to heal. This last was an epiphany/revelation that comes to her within the space of a few hours, after having had to confront a horde of Rohan's female admirers who are practically beating down his door (can you say excessive?). All of a sudden, Kate understands everything: Rohan is scared of love, he's just been using all women and letting them use him, he doesn't think anyone is capable of loving the real man underneath or that he deserves it, and he's convinced himself that the Kilburn curse exists all in an attempt to cover up his running away from love. Wow, that's some great work there Dr. Kate - you don't even need a psych degree!
There are also a series of revelations and realities she has to confront, all of which she just accepts, takes in stride, and moves on. I mean, there's having forbearance and then there's just being stupid and devoid of emotion. I'm sorry, but it all of these things piled up and really began to grate on my nerves (I know, you couldn't tell ;-); after a few chapters all I wanted was to hurry to the end, get it over with, write my review, and move on to the next book in my to-read pile.
My **BIGGEST** criticism by far, however, was about three *very* questionable moments. It is a huge issue for me - as it should be for everyone - when books in this genre romanticize rape. There was nothing so blatant here (not like in Dodd's recent IN BED WITH THE DUKE), but there were definite problem areas and I've had this with Foley books before (specifically the first Knight book, THE DUKE):
* EXHIBIT A * Kate shows up the first night, is brought to the great hall where she is offered/given to Rohan, she's been drugged and thinks he's about to rape her ... yet she is attracted to and aroused by him and thinks it might not be all that bad. Excuse me, what?!
* EXHIBIT B * "If he had to have his way with her before he would let her go home, at least she knew that, if nothing else, he would make sure she enjoyed it. She shivered at the scandalous thought, ..." Scandalous?! Try completely unhealthy and twisted.
* EXHIBIT C * "She sensed his desperation and knew that he was hard and wild enough to take it if it was not offered freely" (p.318) ... great, what a nicely poetic way of alluding to rape.
Skip it! Stay away! Or somehow lose the book after page 218.
*By Gaelen Foley*
(1) LORD OF ICE - 5 stars
(2) LORD OF FIRE (Knight Miscellany, Book 2) - 5 stars
(3) DEVIL TAKES A BRIDE (Knight Miscellany, Book 5) - 4 stars
*Dark and Tortured Heroes (some are darker and more tortured than others)*
(1) THUNDER AND ROSES (Fallen Angels Series, Book 1) by Mary Jo Putney - 5 stars
(2) ENGLANDS PERFECT HERO (Lessons in Love, Book 3) by Suzanne Enoch - 5 stars
(3) LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (The Hathaways, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas - 5 stars
(4) DREAMING OF YOU (Gamblers of Craven's, Book 2 by Lisa Kleypas - 5 stars
(5) ALWAYS A SCOUNDREL (The Notorious Gentlemen, Book 3) by Suzanne Enoch - 5 stars
(6) THE MATCHMAKER (Maker Series, Book 1) by Rexanne Becnel - 5 stars
(7) SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL (The Scoundrels of St. James) by Lorraine Heath - 4.5 stars
(8) SEDUCE ME AT SUNRISE (The Hathaways, Book 2) by Lisa Kleypas - 4.5 stars
(9) WORTH ANY PRICE (Bow Street, Book 3) by Lisa Kleypas - 4 stars
(10) Most Gaelen Foley heroes (including the three in the books above)