So far, I’m enjoying the ludicrously named Stud Club trilogy, but at the same time I can tell that they are earlier works from an author whose later titles, I feel, are more indicative of her talent.
The second entry into the trilogy follows the VERY tortured Rhys St. Maur, Lord Ashworth, a war hero and broody dude who is a closet romantic and wants nothing more than to start over and create, rather than destroy, back at his ancestral home. His love interest is Meredith Maddox, formerly Lane, an innkeeper in the nearby village who grew up on Ashworth land as the stable-hand’s overlooked daughter. When Rhys sees her again after all these years, it takes a minute to place her in his memory, but even before the connections are made, it’s love at first sight — he’s infatuated at the sight of her and duly impressed by the no-nonsense way she manages her inn.
Meredith was simply fantastic. I loved her straightforward nature, her rational patience, and her can-do attitude. Further, I personally have a soft spot for a sexually experienced heroine with no qualms about making the first move and Meredith, as a widow who has also taken intermittent lovers since the passing of her husband, certainly qualifies. She’s got goals and desires, lofty and base, and she owns up to all of them guilelessly.
I wouldn’t say Rhys left me cold, but I have grown weary of the “broken man” shtick and that’s kind of his calling card. He still maintains a surprisingly joyful optimism what borders on bullishness when it comes to Meredith, insisting that she’s his future wife and that it’s simply meant to be, whether she admits it at the time or not. He puts a lot of stock in fate and destiny, which Meredith finds absurd and irritatingly naive in the face of the hard work and difficult decisions she’s had to make in her life to get her to the place where she is, and where she’s perfectly happy, thank-you-very-much! As much as she’s had a thing for Rhys for years and probably is, in some measure, in love with him, she’s not at all swept off her feet by his casual suggestion of inevitability or by his indifference that married life with him probably means abandoning the inn that she has poured her heart and soul into.
Two things, in particular, elevated this book from “Meh, pretty good” to an overall success: one was Meredith herself, and the other were some of the exceptionally sexy scenes between her and Rhys. Smolder is in the eye of the beholder, as it were, and even when I’m not head-over-heels for the hero myself, Dare’s particular skill in this area still had me furiously envy of Meredith. There are two scenes involving water, which should really not have worked because practically speaking sexytimes in or around bodies of water are never quite as successful as one imagines, but I’ll be damned if Dare didn’t make it work not once, but twice. Furthermore, I suspect because Meredith isn’t some virginal thing, a few of the encounters actually skew a little rough, which is definitely my cup of tea (there’s a reason I started in paranormals, which I devoured despite the vast majority of those I read being not objectively good books.)
I was a bit surprised by the way some things ended. A few small mysteries are solved and the culprit was not expected to me. At the same time, I admit to being a little let down by the particulars of the official union between Rhys and Meredith. It seemed a little rushed, and I think Meredith got a little shortchanged. It’s not that I doubt her future happiness, but I don’t think the way it played out exactly jived with her previous characterization. BUT: overall I liked Twice Tempted by a Rogue. It’s more 3.5 stars than 3.