Another review from our friend Caffey Cathie!
Midnight’s Wild Passion by Anna Campbell
Historical romance release by Avon, April 26, 2011
London’s most notorious seducer, Nicholas Challoner lives solely for revenge . . .
The dashing, licentious Marquess of Ranelaw can never forgive Godfrey Demarest for ruining his sister—now the time has come to repay the villain in the same coin. But one formidably intriguing impediment stands in the way of Nicholas’s vengeance: Miss Antonia Smith, companion to his foe’s unsuspecting daughter.
Having herself been deceived and disgraced by a rogue—banished by her privileged family as a result and forced to live a lie—Antonia vows to protect her charge from the same cruel fate. She recognizes Ranelaw for the shameless blackguard he is and will devote every ounce of her intelligence and resolve to thwarting him.
Yet Antonia has always had a fatal weakness for rakes . . .
I haven’t read all of Anna Campbell historical romances, but after this read of Midnight’s Wild Passion, I so want to experience this special way she writes again. Ms. Campbell has a way of bringing us back to the heroes of those historical romances from the bodice rippers time without the bodice rippers heroines! You get the feel of that intensity of the hero as a rake but with a strong heroine.
Midnight’s Wild Passion takes place in London 1827. Our hero, Nicholas Challoner, Marquess of Ranelaw is a rake and if his plans go as he predicts he will be one of the worst. As he has set out in revenge for his half sister, Eloise, who was ruined by Godfrey Demarest, one of the richest men in England. Godfrey Demarest, known as Demarest, is a womanizer and gone for most of the book in Paris pursuing women. He was one of his Nicholas’s father’s friends. Ranelaw’s hatred for Demarest is intense and has been stirring on him for years. That hate is what finally has drives Ranelaw to action.
Ranelaw sets out to attend balls and parties as a ruse, pretending to be in need of a wife. He’s not under suspicion because of his age. Ranelaw plans to seduce Demarest’s daughter, Miss Cassandra Demarest. Cass is out for her debut. She’s a mostly smart, sensible young woman. For Ranelaw to get to Cass, he first he has to get by her chaperone, Antonia Hilliard, aka Antonia Smith.
Antonia’s second cousin and employer, Demarest, is Cass’s father. In exchange for a place to stay, Antonia agrees to chaperone Cass’s debut into society while Demarest is in Paris. Antonia knows all about rakes. She was ruined 10 years ago, falling for a rake herself. She hides behind her glasses as a chaperone and no one suspects anything, but Ranelaw. She needs to remain hidden and any misstep in her identity and being discovered will bring scandal to Cass. Ranelaw begins to see the real beauty of Antonia behind her drape-less dark dresses, glasses and her role as a chaperone. Based on how Antonio meets Ranelaw, there’s a challenge immediately between them. The banter with Antonia and Ranelaw is a delight to read! The more she confronts him and attempts to keep him away from Cass, the more he’s up to the challenge to get her both Cass and Antonia. He wanted his pursuit of Antonia to be private but his interest in Cass to be the talk of the ton!
As the story unfolds, more of Ranelaw is revealed about his half-sister’s disgrace, his family, as well as his hatred for his father. There are scenes that bring out the strong emotions that Ranelaw hadn’t shown or revealed. He’s finding and believing he’s not the cruel rake he thought himself. This may sound like a familiar theme, but this author has a special way that is felt so strongly by the reader. The characters come to life as well as the settings and scenery of the book. I fell more in love with Ranelaw after each page. So many of the characters dealing with ruination and how harsh it was during society that they had to hide for the rest of their lives. But even more so, how it affected Ranelaw as a child and into his adulthood. He had set out to get revenge for what Godfrey Demarest did to his sister by planning to ruin Demarest’s daughter Cass. But Antonia gets in the way, in a way that was so unexpected for him that his plans don’t go as he wanted. Love gets in the way. The unique story of the heroine hiding as a chaperone was unique to read. As Antonia feels her past is happening all over again, this time Ranelaw, she feels a love like nothing before but still a future that would be worse if she is found out. Ranelaw is melting for Antonia. His good side is coming out and he feels it too. The intensity between Antonia is a strong sexual tension but so much more, a strong emotional one that they feel for each other.