So this is the second book I’ve read this month with the amnesia trope – I admit I didn’t realize that detail originally, only that it was Meredith Duran’s latest book and I was happy to discover it on the library shelf! I was also glad to discover that she has handled the situation much better than Julia Quinn. The characters have much more depth and the plot is more involved and intriguing than Quinn’s. The book is #5 in the Rules for the Reckless series; however, it can be read on its own, since there’s not really any ties to the previous ones.
Mr. Crispin Burke is the younger son of Viscount Sibley, and he’s portrayed at the start of the book as being morally corrupt, black hearted and politically avaricious. He’s really not the usual sort of rake you find in historical romance that are said to have the reputation but we don’t get any details on why they are so terrible. Naturally, he is also devastatingly handsome and can be charming when he wants to be. His latest planned legislation is vile, and he hopes to overthrow the governing party and become Prime Minister soon. Unfortunately for him, one night he is attacked and left for dead, with a blow to the head that leaves him in a coma. When he does wake up, after five days, he discovers he has a wife and no memory of his life from the last five years or so.
Jane Mason is the wife he didn’t realize he had, because she took advantage of his coma to obtain a false (but legal) marriage certificate, indicating they were wed. She has been under her uncle’s thumb since her parent’s death, and only marriage will release her inheritance; her uncle had hoped to marry her off to his own son, thereby keeping the fortune for himself. The son in question, is of course, an asinine idiot. Jane had been raised to be outspoken and intelligent; in her uncle’s home she was no more than a potted plant to be shunted into the corner and kept silent. Crispin was an ally of her uncle, and caught her trying to escape; however, he offers her some advice in exchange for her help getting some information for him from her uncle’s papers. By claiming they were wed, Jane hoped to be a widow soon and take her money and run to New York, a plan that falls apart when Crispin wakes up.
The new Crispin is nothing like the man he was before and Jane is caught between feeling guilty about the lie and her fascination with his new personality. She decides to wait until the money is settled, and run away when the time is right. What she doesn’t count on is enjoying his company, and helping him navigate society to make sure people don’t realize he’s not quite himself. Despite that, she keeps comparing him to his former self, afraid of what will happen when/if he regains his memory. Now at this point, I was beginning to wish she had been honest with him, rather than continuing the charade, but Ms Duran writes the situation in way that is more believable and I understood why Jane was hesitant to speak up. She knew him before, it wasn’t like he was a complete stranger to her, and she really wanted to help him become a better person. She herself isn’t perfect, and she has to learn to let go of her own fears and welcome the romance that has been building between them. For his part, Crispin has to accept the villain he was, and to work towards being the man Jane deserves.
Overall, I was captivated by the book, and felt by the end of it that Jane and Crispin had definitely earned their happiness, even though he had thoughts on that as well: “Men–women–we make mistakes. We judge those we love. But we keep loving them anyway, because we know that mistakes can be repaired, and that tomorrow, our love will be deserved again. It only takes faith–or loyalty, as you called it. Those ARE what tie a family together, through thick and thin. And they tie a husband and wife together, too. There is no happy ending, you’re right–not in the singular. but in a marriage, there might be countless happy endings and even more sweet beginnings, if loyalty and love are what guide you.”