I don't think that I'm a very difficult person to please. All I want in a historical romance novel is that be as accurate as possible (with an eye for proper language, reliable historical detail, etc), that it possesses an engrossing story line with a hero and heroine that engages my interest (and concern), and that it be written with elegance and grace. Which is why I found Debra Dier's "Dangerous" to be so very frustrating. The novel had a really interesting and gripping storyline (the search for a young lady who had been kidnapped from her own bedroom), it was actually rather well written, and it even possessed a hero (Sebastian St. Clair, the Marquess of Andover) who was not manipulative, self centered and controlling (in other words not someone I longed to throw a book at) -- all wonderful plus points until one considers the heroine. Emma Wakefield was a rather engaging heroine who also happened to be courageous and good hearted. One could even say that she was rather intelligent. Unfortunately, she was also rather short on common sense. And this was, I thought, a really big flaw in the novel.
Emma Wakefield is an unmarried young lady who has more or less eschewed the social swirl that most members of her class partake in (not only because she's relatively poor but also because she has a rather poor opinion of aristocrats). And it is Emma who has been more or less held her family together (the aunt who took her in when her parents died, and her aunt's daughters); so that when her cousin, Charlotte, is kidnapped, Emma naturally feels the need to investigate and bring her home. Through the course of her investigations, she arrives at the conclusion that it is the Marquess of Andover who has kidnapped her cousin. Now everyone believes that the marquess is a murderer (he is supposed to have killed his fiance because she was about to jilt him for someone else). Believing firmly in this rumour, and terribly taken with the vision of behaving like one of the heroines she's always reading about in gothic romances, Emma decides to single-handedly confront the marquess and force him to tell her where her cousin is. Here's where the plot fell apart for me. If the marquess is really someone who got away with murder, and he is indeed responsible for Charlotte's disappearance, what on earth does Emma think that facing such a dangerous man with a small gun (and no backup) will accomplish? Emma, clearly belongs to the 'too foolish for her own good' category. Much of the novel is full of situations in which Emma sallies forth into danger (esp after the marquess tells her not to), the marquess rescuing her and then scolding her, and the two squabbling even as sparks fly between the two. Case in point the episode at the brothel -- I'm not going to go into it, but this was the point at which I thought a good shaking may do Emma some good. I'm never in favour of male brute strength, and I do believe strongly that an intelligent heroine should be equal to anything. But there are situations where, no matter how courageous and intelligent you are, where it is better to go forth only if you have an army behind you, or at least a martial arts background equal to Zena. Emma had neither, but this did not deter her. And the fact that she did not really get into any kind of trouble at all despite her lack of care was just too unbelievable for words. If it wasn't for the fact that I rather liked Emma (in spite of my feelings of exasperation), and enjoyed the chemistry that flowed between the marquess and Emma, I would probably have stopped reading "Dangerous" the third time I came across our head strong heroine behaving foolishly.
In case I've not made myself very clear, I do think that "Dangerous" is worth reading. The novel was a rather gripping one (that also possessed a rather sizzling romance to boot), and you could palpably feel the tension mount as Emma and the marquess followed the clues to their inevitable conclusion. The resolution, however, (the restoring of Charlotte to her family) was incredibly rushed, and came out of no where. Either there is a novel in the works chronicling Charlotte's adventures, or "Dangerous" is a sequel to a previous Debra Dier novel. I do hope however that, just in case Charlotte's story hasn't been written yet, that Debra Dier makes her behave a little more sensibly than Emma did in "Dangerous."