4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Unconventional Duke meets his Matlockian destiny!,
This review is from: St. Raven (Mass Market Paperback)
Another success-story from Jo Beverley, St Raven is a semi-member of the Rogues series. Regular readers of Jo Beverley will have met Tris Tregallows, the Duke of St Raven, in her last book, Hazard. In one of his appearances in that book, he plays the highwayman, Le Corbeau, and that is how we first meet him in his own story. He holds up the carriage in which Cressida Mandeville is travelling and is immediately intrigued by what is obviously a lady in distress, travelling under duress with her escort. And yet a lady who does not wish for his rescue.
Cressida, in a desperate attempt to regain her family fortune, has agreed to accompany Lord Crofton to an orgy. In return for partnering him there and sacrificing her virginity to him, he has promised to return to her some ivory erotic statues - within one of which is hidden the precious gems which will recoup her father’s gambling losses. She had a cunning plan to escape becoming Crofton’s mistress too, or so she thought. But all of her plans are destroyed when the highwayman steals a kiss from her and then rides away with her into the night.
When she discovers that her abductor is the Duke of St Raven, she is no less furious. But Tris offers to help her regain the statuette. The only problem for Cressida is that she will need to accompany him in order to identify exactly which statuette it is that she needs. And so she has to dress as a houri and attend an orgy.
This is just the beginning of a chase around different parts of the country, at different times, in search of the statuette, and of course the beginning of Tris and Cressida’s relationship. It’s an exciting, and at times passionate, story, which also - unlike books by other authors set in the same era - faces head-on the realities of life within polite society. Being a duke involves sometimes onerous responsibility. It means not being able to behave exactly as one wishes in every matter. Being a young lady, especially one of not particularly good family, means that one cannot put so much as a little finger wrong, otherwise one is ruined. And never can the duke and the unfashionable gentlewoman meet on anything even approaching equal terms.
I didn’t enjoy this book quite so much as Hazard, and I think part of that was the fact that Hazard focused solely on Anne and Race’s relationship, while in St Raven there is the plot of the statuette and the sub-plot of the highwayman Le Corbeau. For me, these distracted from what I really wanted to read about, although I accept that Cressida and Tris could never have met except under this sort of circumstance. They didn’t move in the same milieu. Cressida is the daughter of a nabob, a gentleman who made his fortune in trade in India and, although now knighted, is certainly not of haut ton. The family normally lives in provincial, unfashionable isolation in Matlock, Derbyshire.
And this is largely the conflict in the story: how can Cressida and Tris be together when he is so far above her in status? How could she cope with being a duchess when she hasn’t been raised to it? It was interesting to see the other side of the coin immediately after Hazard, in which a duke’s daughter finds a way to be allowed to marry a social nobody. I was pleased to see that the example of the Marquess of Arden, who married a governess (Beverley’s An Unwilling Bride) was cited, although it appears that Beth Arden has had some problems being accepted into Society - going to tell us more at some point, Beverley?
It felt to me as if Tris fell in love with Cressida very quickly - too quickly, almost. Admittedly, the main conflict of the book related to their disparity in social standing, but I didn’t really feel that I’d seen them fall in love - not in the way I saw Anne and Race or Lucien and Beth fall in love. This is probably the main reason why St Raven gets four stars rather than five.
I was also hoping for further glimpses of Anne and Race in this book; it seems as if they may well face problems of acceptance, and I wanted to know that their married life has begun well and that they have plenty of friends who will champion them - Tris being one, but the Rogues in addition. However, Anne and Race were only ever mentioned in passing. I would love to see the two couples meet!
Finally, who is Caradoc Lyne? He’s clearly a friend of Tris’s, and possibly someone who travelled on the Continent with him. He appears to be employed by Tris in some capacity, or at least dependent on him; Tris gives him things to do and asks him to find things out. His role in Tris’s life is never explained. Will we see him again? The hero of a future novel, perhaps? This dedicated Jo Beverley reader is waiting with her fingers crossed!