I’ve gotta hand it to Tessa Dare: I was not really sure how I was going to end up liking Julian Bellamy. In the first two books in the Stud Club trilogy, he’s very much that annoying friend in your group that you kind of put up with because he’s always been around, but you don’t really like him all that much. He’s whiny and has the worst case of tunnel-vision about the murder of his friend Leo — blinded by guilt and remorse, he is singularly fixated on finding Leo’s killers to the detriment of his health and relationships. Further, he’s allegedly this fashion-forward trendsetter who the men of the ton attempt to emulate, as well as a notorious rake, having bedded an obscene number of the married women of the gentry (my reaction: …Him?)
But, here we are, in his own book, and he’s still kind of all of those things, but now with Dare’s full attention, he also has a fascinating double life and a rather compelling backstory as the bastard son of a nobleman and deaf woman. His experience in this arena comes in very handy when it comes to Lily Chatwick, sister to dearly departed Leo, and secret love of Julian’s life. For Lily herself had lost her hearing in an illness some years back, and it’s the combination of that setback and her required year of mourning for Leo that has kept her unmarried all this time. She’s otherwise lively, intelligent, adventurous, and extremely loyal.
Filled with Dare’s trademark humor and sizzle, I enjoyed Three Nights with a Scoundrel (though, surprisingly, possibly a little less than Twice Tempted by a Rogue — despite Ashworth’s routine tortured hero comportment, that pairing read with more enticing sexual tension to me.) With the humorous inclusion of a mimic parrot that pronounces its companions guilty at opportune times, as well as what can only be described as regency-era dick jokes, I did certainly laugh out loud more than once. Additionally, I liked the decision that despite the suggestion (not JUST a suggestion, in Julian’s case) that both of these two have been secretly circling each other for awhile, hiding their feelings, once the dynamic had irrevocably changed, the two chose to be straightforward with each other about their feelings rather than playing coy. Of course, Julian was still carrying baggage about thinking he’s not good enough for Lily that he had to get over, but he at least gave her the chance to prove that their relationship was a real possible outcome, and not something that didn’t exist.
Overall, this was a fun early series from a promising author. It’s good on its own merits, but it’s really good for observing the upward trajectory of a talent in the genre.