Thursday, October 2, 2014

(Review) Once More, My Darling Rogue by Lorraine Heath

Title: Once More, My Darling Rogue
Author: Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #2
Published: August 2014 (Avon)
Rating: Stay Up 'til 2 AM
Format: Paperback borrowed from the library
Summary: Born to the street but raised within the aristocracy, Drake Darling can’t escape his sordid beginnings. Not when Lady Ophelia Lyttleton snubs him at every turn, a constant reminder he’s not truly one of them. But after rescuing her from a mysterious drowning he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. With plans to bring her to heel, he insists she’s his housekeeper—never expecting to fall for the charming beauty.

While Ophelia might not recall her life before Drake, she has little doubt she belongs with him. The desire she feels for her dark, brooding employer can’t be denied, regardless of consequences. So when her memory returns, she is devastated by the depth of his betrayal. Now Drake must risk everything to prove she can trust this rogue with her heart once more.
I went into Once More, My Darling Rogue very excited but also a little hesitant. I'm not always a fan of amnesia stories. Although they can be enjoyable, a lot of them wind up blending together in my mind because they're so similar. In order for me to desire to read one, I need something more. The heroine being completely hateful to the hero, followed by the hero taking advantage of the heroine's amnesia and making her act as his housekeeper? That'll do it. I knew Heath would have to tread carefully, because while the story would definitely be unique, it could also be the perfect setting for a good, old-fashioned alphahole, the fastest way to ruin a book. Thankfully, my trepidation was for naught. I fell head over heels for this book and devoured it in a day.

Let's start with the characters. In the beginning, Ophelia Lyttleton was kind of horrid. And I LOVED it. She was spoiled by servants, totally taking them for granted, and you know what? That's real. Highborn ladies of the time were pampered, waited on hand and foot by servants. They weren't expected to do anything for themselves. She was of the upper class, and she was well aware of it, having been raised by a father who drilled into her their superiority to those of lower birth. It was incredibly refreshing to see this, even though it did not make her the most likable of heroines at first. In addition, she was a total witch to the Drake, snubbing him repeatedly in front of others. To be fair, we mostly saw this from his perspective and memories, and the small glimpse we got into Ophelia's head showed that she was using this behavior as a defense mechanism against her attraction toward to Drake, someone with whom she could never be associated without losing her dowry and what was left of her family. There was also a lot more going on beneath the surface with her, secrets she did not reveal even in her thoughts until much later in the story.

Then there was Drake. I think the first line says it all:
I was born Peter Sykes, the son of a murderer, the son of a woman murdered, a heritage that has always haunted me.
Um, HELLO. Way to make an impression with the first line. It wasn't at all what I expected when I cracked open the book. That first line captivated me, and I continued to be intrigued by Drake through the whole book. He was smart, a great businessman, intimidating, but fair, but he had innate inferiority issues due to his birth, despite being raised in a duke's family. (I was completely intrigued by his pseudo-adoptive parents, as well, and I really hope Heath has written their story at some point in the past. I got that impression, and I would love to read it!) He also had a dragon tattoo. I'll let you read the book to discover where, but I'll just say that there was a scene about it that caused some definite swoonage.

Drake and Ophelia each brought out the worst in each other. She was mean to him to keep him at a distance, and the easiest method was to remind him of his inferiority. This was his one big weakness, the one issue that would really get to him. While usually in amnesia stories, I prefer to know how the hero and heroine would have gotten together without that particular plot device, I don't think this one would've worked without it. They were caught in a circle of animosity. They needed some reason to see beyond the barriers they had erected. And in their particular case, I don't believe that really would've happened in normal circumstances.

BUT ANYWAY. Now that I've written an essay on the first 50 pages or so, I can move on to the rest of the book.

When Drake found Ophelia washed up on the side of the river, he rescued her. After he got her safely to his house and discovered who she was, he had the brilliant housekeeper idea. And this is where it all could've gone horribly wrong. Thankfully, it didn't. At this point in the story, Drake hated Ophelia, and I could absolutely see why. He had every reason to. He had an irrational whim and went with it. He just wanted a laugh, a little revenge, something to keep her in her place when she tried to humiliate him again in the future. He wasn't going to make her do anything potentially dangerous or harmful, only tedious things like preparing dinner and dusting the library shelves.

But - insert shocked face here - things didn't go as planned! Due to circumstances, Ophelia had to stay with him longer. And while Drake had a few idiotic moments and should've told her the truth way earlier, I always understood his reasoning. With the way things played out, Drake and Ophelia got to know each other for real, in a way they never would have before the accident. And oh, oh but it was wonderful to watch. I enjoyed both of their perspectives. Ophelia knew instinctively that something was wrong with her new life, knew that something was off, but she was a good sport and went along with it. Her attempts were sometimes rather hilarious, like when she went to prepare a pheasant for dinner:
She couldn’t cook something that had the ability to glare at her, to make her feel guilty about preparing it.
By the end of the story, Ophelia had a new-found respect for servants and their jobs, having been in their shoes for a while. But that was pretty much all that changed. It wasn't a magical transformation from evil termagant to glowing saint, something that is common and drives me absolutely bonkers. Ophelia always had a good heart: loyalty, devotion, compassion towards animals, and many other qualities. We just didn't see them until she (albeit, unwillingly) let her guard down and allowed Drake to see them.

And did I mention the chemistry? Because yowza! The chemistry between these two was phenomenal. You could tell from the beginning that there was something explosive there that was being strongly repressed on both sides. Obviously Drake held back for a long time once she was in his care, but there was still attraction simmering between them. While I wouldn't exactly call it a slow burn, it unfolded slowly and deliciously, and I enjoyed every moment.

Once More, My Darling Rogue fulfilled every one of my wishes and expectations. Heath took a prevalent plot device and put a unique spin on it with refreshingly real, flawed characters. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys actual hate-to-love stories, because this one was well executed and absolutely lovely. It made me want to go look up more books by her, which I will very likely wind up doing.
I was born Peter Sykes, the son of a murderer, the son of a woman murdered, a heritage that has always haunted me.

Friendship isn’t measured by time. It can happen in the blink of an eye when you meet someone you like.

If looks could kill...well, hers might wound him, but it wasn’t going to be the death of him.

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