by Zoë Archer, historical/fantasy (2010)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0680-0
Scoundrel is the part of Zoë Archer's The Blades Of The Rose series but this one can stand alone very well as it is a story with a brand new main couple. The characters from the previous book, Warrior, do not figure in any way in this story. But do read the review of Warrior if you are new to the series so that you can catch up on what's what when it comes to this setting.
In this book, we move to Greece in 1875. London Harcourt has been raised to know as little about her father's work as possible, and it is only recently that she was told by her father Joseph Edgeworth that he is working for the government, and even then, it was because her father wanted her to follow him on a business trip, let's just say, to Greece and help him translate some old inscriptions. You see, London is a genius when it comes reading and deciphering old languages, something that she has kept from her father until he learned of her ability by chance shortly before the story opens. Joseph has very chauvinist views about women - to him, they are weak and emotional creatures that need to be sheltered from the harsh realities of life even as they obediently submit to the men in their lives. As a result, London and Joseph are never particularly close.
In Greece, London experiences the exhilaration of actually doing the things that she wants to do for the first time in her life. With her unlamented husband dead and her father too distracted by his work to play the watchdog, she gets to explore the streets of Monastiraki, get into arguments with angry vendors, and even flirt with a handsome man. Well, that handsome man ends up kidnapping her and forcing her to go along with him and his compatriots on their own version of the journey undertaken by Jason and the Argonauts.
That man is Bennett Day. He is a Blade. He tells her that her father is a prominent member of the Heirs and her father intends to use her ability to read and decipher ancient Greek language to locate a powerful Source that will be used by the Heirs to subjugate the world under the superior thumb of British men. Because the Heirs are all chauvinist jerks who do not allow women into their ranks - unlike the Blades - Joseph deliberately keeps London in the dark about the true nature of her visit to Greece. Bennett has beaten Joseph to the punch by kidnapping London before she can reveal to Joseph what she has learned. The thing is, will London remain loyal to her father or join Bennett in his mission to locate and protect the Source from the Heirs?
Like Warrior, Scoundrel is exactly what is written on the box - it is a fast-paced adventure-driven story full of magic, danger, and, of course, romance. Unlike Gabriel, the hero of the last book, who can be awkward and shy in the presence of women, Bennett is a smooth player who can smooch and charm his way into any lady's bedroom. However, he is also a pretty uncomplicated fellow in that he lives for adventure as well as women. He is a capable action hero, a cross between Jason of the Argonauts and James Bond, and he definitely delivers where acts of daring heroism are concerned.
London is actually the more complicated character. While she and her father do not have a particularly warm relationship, she still experiences pangs of remorse and guilt as she betrays her father for the greater good of mankind, so to speak. She also holds her own pretty well in this story. She is not an action hero, and she shouldn't be, given how she was a typical English lady until she was dragged into this adventure, but she manages to learn a few things and get the courage to help kick the rear ends of the bad guys.
The two major secondary characters, the witch Athena and the sailor Kallas, are interesting in their own right. The world building is also well done, as the author incorporates ancient Greek folklore into her setting in a most memorable manner.
The only complaint I have is the timing and number of the love scenes. Those love scenes actually increase in number later in the story, and they have me scratching my head because these people sure manage to find plenty of time to shag when they are supposed to be racing against time to stop the Heirs from getting to the Source. Interestingly, these people don't seem to feel exhausted or even sleepy after sex. If anything, sex seems to get them even more hyped up to kick rear ends. Oh well, then again, these people are not exactly everyday folks.
With the same qualities that make Warrior a great read and without the problems that plague that book, Scoundrel is an improvement over the previous book. This only means that the party has only become more happening, and I can't wait for the next book. I've never had this much fun in a while.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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