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Highwayman and Houri,
This review is from: St. Raven (Mass Market Paperback)
Jo Beverley's Historical Romances are definitely a cut above most of the rest with interesting locations, better historical accuracy than the norm and a variety of plots and characters. "St Raven" links in with the 'Company of Rogues' series although not directly referring to the Rogues, and the events in this story are contemporaneous with the book "Hazard", the events of which are taking place at the same time as this book and are occasionally obliquely mentioned. However "St Raven" works entirely well as a standalone novel and might be a good one to introduce new readers to Jo Beverley's work.
Cressida Mandeville, daughter of an India Nabob, has to take some drastic action to save her family's fortunes. Her father has lost everything at a game of cards but Cressida knows that there is a fortune in jewels stored in an ivory statue in their country estate, now won by the unpleasant Lord Crofton. She decides that she will extract those jewels and to do so must put herself in the power of Lord Crofton who believes that she is agreeing to be his mistress at an orgy in the house. Cressida plans to escape before anything happens to her, having secured the jewels, but her plans are interrupted on the journey to the house when the highwayman Le Corbeau holds up the coach and carries her off. She's imprisoned in a cottage but treated well and very quickly recognises her abductor, the Duke of St Raven.
St Raven is playing at highwayman for one night only to help his bastard cousin, the real Le Corbeau, be proved innocent. However he can't leave a poor virginal miss in the clutches of Lord Crofton so whisks Cressida away. Once he has her and hears her story, however, his impulsive nature requires him to assist her to retrieve her jewels, thus starts a strange comradeship between the Duke and the daughter of a man in Trade. Of course events get more and more tangled, the statues seem to be very popular to all who see them, Cressida has to disguise herself as a houri and attend an orgy with St Raven but eventually has to return to her dull, safe life with her parents. However things are continually changing in Cressida's life and she discovers a new, adventuresome side to her nature; unfortunately the Duke is still out of her reach socially and she is unsure of his steadiness and constancy, fearing that she's just one of his whims.
Although a romance story in some ways this book focuses more on the problem of retrieving the jewels for Cressida's family and keeping her reputation safe, the falling in love seems to just happen, and fairly quickly, and without much fanfare. There is a misunderstanding towards the end of the book that keeps hero and heroine apart a little longer but it's not an annoyingly clunky one like so often is the case and is not really central to the plot. Cressida and Tris Tregallows are very different people from very different social stations but they find companionship with each other and I found it a believable basis for a lasting relationship. The initial objections to a marriage between them, mainly that Cressida has no training as a Duchess, are rather glossed over by the end of the story and I was also a little surprised at some of the intimate behaviour between the two but I did find the story a great read and I liked the characters, including the side characters, very much.