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Book Review / The Earl's Enchanting Escapade (Dastardly Lords #3)

This series just gives me joy. Bit of Regency sexiness, bit of sassy ladies, roguish rogues, some fun and games at the expense of both, some duels and silly abductions in a light-hearted manner for the ultimate romantic pursuits.

For the final tale in the series we meet again with Lord Morton, who previously appeared on his great charger to rescue a damsel in distress in a downpour. That damsel was Lady Fiona Axham, a close friend of Constance (our previous heroine), and who happens to live next door to Morton's uncle. Con also happens to be the woman who was kidnapped by Morton (to get back at his old nemesis, and her new husband, Lord Athelcroft) and who subsequently shot him for it. So...let the games begin...

The escapade begins when Fiona's little brother Julian falls almost into Morton's lap when the latter is staying with his uncle, and is duly, though amusingly, returned to his own house. After a brief conversation with Fiona her mother suddenly invites the well-known rogue to the Midsummer party to apologise for the interruption. To Fiona's well-concealed horror, and his own surprise, he accepts. Morton doesn't socialise lightly, and tries to steer clear of people in general, so when he actually turns up it makes for some great gossip, and some moments of proverbial hot-bothery collar problems for Fiona.

Fiona was another fabulous heroine to follow like her predecessors. A fan of walking around scandalously barefoot (the act of which Morton finds delightfully interesting...), she is strong-willed enough to know she will not do her mother's bidding and marry her slimy cousin, but finds that will begin to crumble in the face of Morton, whose rakish reputation precedes him. She trains her own bird of prey, and is secretly trying to publish a book. What's nice about Fiona is she is still young, and not entirely sure of her feelings towards this experienced and stoic rake, so doesn't feel like she's a perfect cut-out. She also leaps head-first into some very scandalous situations on occasion (on more than one occasion with Morton), and then has to wheedle her way out.

Morton himself is reserved, seemingly serious, shares little, smiles little, but apparently sees all. He cares little about what others think (or write) about him, however, is guarding something painful to his heart, and the genuine melting of said heart begins without his knowledge (or understanding), upon coming to know Fiona more intimately. It was nice to see the development of how his rakish reputation might be pure fiction (certainly during the desperate attempt to secure an incriminating manuscript and the final exposure of that particular arc) and made up by and for the amusement of others to endure gossip in society of a handsome, famous bachelor.

The Earl's Enchanting Escapade was a lot of fun it stood out in the series for its whole cast slightly more than the previous two. Though I greatly enjoyed the previous two, the unorthodox goings on in Fiona's family, from her horticulturally obsessed father to her playful little brother and cousins, her matchmaking mother to her creepy cousin Theodore, gave a little more rounded experience to her family, and allowed her to see our hero from multiple angles. Julian was one of my favourite characters who, on understanding their mother wished to unite Fiona and Theodore, decides it's up to him to set-up his sister with the far superior Morton to ensure Theodore does not become his brother-in-law. Their father's horticultural (and present pineapple) obsession arc with his nemesis was amusing throughout, and their cousin Crispin's constant bad luck and gambling habits, but ultimately good heart, was a nice contrast, and enhanced her character in her firm support of him. It all tied nicely together in the end to give a satisfying conclusion.

Daphne du Bois always has fun with her characters and manages to make them different enough in each story to remain engaging and interesting (and hot) in their own right. As the Regency period lends itself reserved, upright manners and refined culture, this series, as her others, makes for enjoyable, easy-reading to escape what can be the dreariness of modern life.


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