The Reckless One
by Connie Brockway, contemporary (2000)
Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-22627-9


I'm not too sure how readers unfamiliar with the previous McClairen's Isle book (The Passionate One) would like this book as the external conflict is a continuation of that in the previous book, but me, everything is falling into place just nicely.

Nothing proves that fate is a sinister web that binds two people from different world better than this book. Once upon a time, Favor McClairen saved the life of Raine Merrick, an action which catalyzed the almost-genocide of the McClairen clan (Favor and her brother are among the few survivors) and set in chain a long, bitter feud that will exert its poison on Raine and Favor for the rest of their lives.

Now in 1760, Raine is rotting in a French prison when Favor, under deception, manages to set him free only to use him as a bait. He escapes, and returns to Wanton's Blush, his home, to steal a treasure from the father who never ransomed him. Also in the same place is Favor attempting to woo Carr, Raine's evil father, in an attempt to regain McClairen's Isle for her people.

If you have no idea who Carr is, or what the heck is Wanton's Blush, I really suggest picking up The Passionate One first - the brief flashbacks in this book really won't increase your appreciation as much as reading the first book to get an entire view of the events already set in motion, and to appreciate what a rotten, maggot-eaten scumbag Carr is.

Favor is a bit naive, but she manages to be courageous enough in face of her aunt's emotional blackmailing of her into a situation she never wanted to be in in the first place. Favor is a young woman who is ill-suited for deception, and she is naive enough to believe that all she has to do is to marry Carr and hide in a remote place until he dies and leaves her the isle. However, the poor woman would soon find the last of her convent-bred Pollyanna views shred to pieces, but she emerges stronger for it. Favor is an intriguing mix of innocence and bitterness - no wonder Raine, her male counterpart, is attracted to her.

Ah Raine. Yes, I do like Raine better than Ash, his brother and hero in The Passionate One. Try as Raine might to be an uncivilized barbaric brute, he just can't help dreaming and feeling protective of Favor. He is noble too, albeit a reluctant one, and despite his many torments, he is never once cruel to Favor. Now that's what I call a romance hero - protective, reliable, loving, and would risk his life for her. Raine is an irresistible mix of roguishness and bitter cynicism - seductive qualities indeed. No wonder Favor, in her naivety, couldn't resist. I doubt I can either. One thing did jar me from my reading though - a line describing Raine's perfect white teeth. Rotting in prison for years... and still have pearly white teeth? Do they serve oranges in there to stave off scurvy? Just wondering.

What clinches the keeper status with me isn't just the great characters Raine and Favor - it is the way the author skilfully fuses the unrelenting darkness in the story with the brief yet luminous moments of silence and tranquility the two characters experience, which only gently bring forth how right that they should fall for each other. And the whole story is exciting, yes. I root for Carr's downfall even as I pity the man, and I am at the edge of my seat as events hurtle into a really grand finale. Ms Brockway can clearly keep me hanging to every word she writes - I even miss my nightly rendezvous with carbohydrates, no thanks to reading this book all the way to 2 am in the morning. Did I mention I am now two days behind in my paperwork?

Not that I am not glad for a precious few hours spent getting to know Raine, Favor, and the delightful McClairen's youngest, Fia. Oh yes, Fia, who has really set up high - do I mean high - expectations for her story.

Raine and Favor don't radiate the explosive sexual chemistry as those in Ms Brockway's previous works, but it is still a great, exciting, and stormy read. It's nice to see the author back in top form, and I look forward to the next book, The Ravishing One eagerly. August can't come fast enough!

Rating: 89


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