One thing I like about Anne Barbour's Regencies is that they are all different. The first book of hers I read was A STEP IN TIME, which is, of all things, a time-travel Regency that turns a few romance-novel conventions upside-down. Another I like tremendously is A MAN OF AFFAIRS, in which she gives us a hero and heroine who are anything but stererotyped, and must deal with unusual social pressures. Yet another is A PRESSING ENGAGEMENT, which gives you a hero you just want to slap until he shows to advantage under crisis conditions.
But one of my all-time favorites of Barbour's books is A DEDICATED SCOUNDREL. Danged if I didn't find myself drawn into the story again as I was preparing this review! I opened to the first page, and started reading away. I was immediately drawn to the hero, who starts out beaten, bruised, and battered, and realizing that someone who should have been on his side has betrayed him. Who can resist that?
Lord Justin Belforte is assigned the task of seeing that an escape route for the French is cut off after the battle of Salamanca. Instead, he is attacked, pounded to a pulp, and left for dead while an important French general escapes. Now he must find out who the traitor is. Since he is assumed to be that traitor, as he learns from his superior when he makes his way back to London, he must hide from his own people as well. Before he can straighten out this little mess, he is badly injured yet again in the service of a lady and comes back to consciousness with no memory.
Eighteen twelve just isn't Justin's year.
Catherine Meade feels that she must help this man, injured both in body and in mind because he came to her assistance, but she does not trust him. He is a man, isn't he? That says it all. Any woman over twelve has had at least one experience leading to the conclusion that men are untrustworthy, and so has Catherine. Justin finds her an enigma-there's obviously something she isn't saying-and she's not sure his loss of memory is genuine.
So begins an interesting relationship. But there's more to it, which I don't want to give away in a review. Let's just say that when Justin gets his memory back, it isn't all wonderful. He needs to understand a lot more about himself than just who he is and what he is supposed to be doing. The poor guy has a lot to deal with, and Catherine is sometimes helpful and sometimes not.
I prefer Regencies in which the hero does his part for the war effort rather than spend his time worrying about the shine of his Hessians or the quality of his port. Justin is a truly engaging hero, and the storyline becomes quite exciting before it's all over. I thoroughly enjoyed A DEDICATED SCOUNDREL.