I recently had an unilateral salpingo oophorectomy. There’s no reason for me to tell you that except I really like saying “salpingo-oophorectomy.” So yeah, I’m down a salpingo and an oopher, and the doctor gave me a bottle of pain pills and two weeks off of work to read and recover.
Tempted By His Touch Boxed Set – .99
Goodreads | AMZ | BN | K | ARe
So naturally I turned to Regency Comfort Food, including this boxed set Tempted by His Touch because “Shit, it was 99 cents!” Except instead of Regency Comfort Food and ballrooms and Madeira wine and Vauxhall, I found the dark, gritty Regency romantic suspense I didn’t even know I wanted. It’s Regency Noir and it’s glorious, and there should be more of it. Lots more.
Now, I gobbled up Sherlock Holmes as a teen (God, that opened a door for a great Benedict Cumberbatch/gobbling joke, didn’t it?) and moved on later to Anne Perry and Laurie R. King and Wilkie Collins. There was of course Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. But these books weren’t, strictly speaking, romance novels.
A Dangerous Invitation by Erica Monroe is a romance novel, with hot, hot sexiness, set in the slums and rookeries of London in 1832, with a gripping suspense plot. It also features a hot Irish hero, a heroine who walks around in a big old greatcoat, fires a Flintlock pistol, and kicks ass. It’s catnip I didn’t know I had. If I could inject this book directly into my veins, I would.
So get out the squee mop because this review is going to be soaked.
Our heroine, Kate Morgan, used to be the privileged daughter of shipping magnate. She’s a smart girl; her mother left when she was a child and she grew up around her father’s business. She’s more comfortable in the warehouses he ran than at a dress shop. She meets Daniel O’Reilly, an Irishman who works for her father, and the two fall in love and get engaged.
Then Daniel is arrested for murder—he’s found over the body of a man who has been stabbed to death. He evades the police and goes on the lam. The scandal surrounding Daniel’s arrest bleeds over into Emporia, Kate’s father’s business. Her father grows ill, the business goes bankrupt, and within three years Kate is on the streets.
Rather than falling into prostitution, Kate uses her knowledge gained at the import/ export business to become a fence (like you do) moving stolen goods that come through the slums and rookeries of London. She lives in a tenement house and leads a hard scrabble life. She drinks gin (aka crank) and hangs out with the no-so-nice crowd. After nearly being sold into prostitution (whoops), Kate has vowed never to be a victim again. She wears her father’s oversized greatcoat, packs heat, and knows how to throw a punch. According to Monroe’s Pinterest Board which I obsessively stalked, Kate is inspired either by Stana Katic or Kate Beckett from Castle or both.( As a side note, I love it when authors have Pinterest boards that show their inspiration and research for their novels.)
Moving on. Kate is pretty pissed that Daniel bailed on her and takes it as a sign of his guilt. She feels, understandably, that everything she believed in and trusted was stripped away from her, and it’s made her brittle and hard. She’s shocked when Daniel shows up, three years later, determined to prove his innocence and to win her back.
Back when things were still hunky-dory between them, Kate knew Daniel had a drinking problem. After his arrest he basically went on a three year bender. Now he’s sober, determined to put his life back together, but it’s a struggle when there are gin houses everywhere.
Daniel believes he was framed for the murder and that the man who was killed, Tommy Dalton, had ties to the Resurrection Men—thieves who stole bodies from cemeteries for anatomization and dissection by less than ethical doctors and scientists. Because that’s not fucking creepy at all.
Kate agrees to help Daniel try and track down the real killer because Daniel pays her for her help (she can navigate the London underground) and for… um. Look, I know there were other reasons, but I was taking a lot of Percocet people. I might be taking Percocet now. Be glad this review isn’t just a stick figure drawing with boobs and a Hello Kitty sticker.
Even though she’s incredibly hurt by his abandonment and less than sure of his innocence, Kate helps Daniel, and there’s this wonderful tension still between them. Some of it is sexual. Some of it is that Daniel is just a really amazing guy. He’s a beta-hero. He’s kind to Kate, respects her bad-assery, but still wants to protect her. Daniel can brawl with the best of them, but Kate is really the tough-guy in this book. Daniel is more likely to observe, Kate to antagonize. Daniel also has tremendous shame for his prior actions, but when he’s tender with her it was enough to kick my one remaining oopher into high gear. And when he wants her…ungh. Just ungh, okay?
The beauty of this book lies not only in the pleasure-pain of the romance between two people with a shitload of baggage, but in all the glorious, glorious detail. Either Monroe did a lot of research into the underbelly of London or she’s really good at making up crap. Each neighborhood is described, the smells, the ramshackle buildings, the crush of desperate humanity that lives there. It’s not a warm and fuzzy book. These people are poor and struggling. There’s a scene with a prostitute that’s particularly saddening, but it’s not a depressing book.
She inserts the detail without dropping an info-bomb on the reader either. During the smexing we get a taste of what Kate’s day-to-day apparel is like:
He worked the long sleeves down her arms, his touch burning her. He unclasped the brass fixtures that joined her bodice to her skirt and then lifted her up. She kicked off her skirt with far more speed than she should have been able to muster—than was proper.
She wasn’t a proper lady anymore, damn it.
He tackled her petticoat next with its heavy corded twine rings, throwing the offending garment off the bed and toward the County Cork trunk in the corner of the room.
She wore a simple corset, modified so she could lace it without the help of a maid: spiral laced in the back, but with cords that came forward and weaved into tabs in the front. The two strings tied together in a bow beneath her breasts, a bow his heavy-lidded gaze fastened on. His tongue darted out to wet his lips before he made quick work of the laces, freeing her breasts to him. He tugged the shift out from underneath her skirt, up and over her shoulders.
Somewhere RedHeadedGirl just perked up because clothes pr0n.
The neighborhoods and people that Monroe describes are vividly rendered, and so it’s one of those books that just sucks you in and you lose your sense of place entirely (I’m sure the Percocet facilitated that somewhat). There are also great secondary characters that I’m sure will appear in future books—Atlas Greer, Gentleman Thief; Osborne, the freed black pawnbroker; Jane, Kate’s best friend; Sally, a prostitute with a talent for drawing who cracks the case open for Kate and Daniel.
All of this is held together with a great mystery, and the last section of the book was literally a mad-chase that I couldn’t put down.
So yeah, I liked this book a lot.
There were some things that I would have liked though. Maps would have been awesome. There may be some in the single title release of A Dangerous Invitation, but there wasn’t in the boxed set. Also there’s a lot of slang used—”blunt” for money, “The Peelers” for police—and most of it was obvious from context but a little glossary would have been nice.
Also Kate and Daniel have sex right after Kate wakes up from being knocked unconscious by an explosion—because concussion sex is the best sex! Let’s be honest people, she totally would have puked on him. Or had a blinding headache and just kneed him in the balls for starting shit.
But I don’t really care. This book was the perfect escape. It’s rich in setting and suspense, and it’s a romance between two beautifully damaged people, and it helped me right along in my recovery, so really who can ask for more?
Me. That’s who.
I really need for the second book in the Rookery Rogues to be releases like right the fuck now, and I also need more books like this—gritty, detailed, sexy, set in the less than pretty parts of the Regency/Victorian era, suspenseful. I’m going to be scouring the interwebs for this, but I really hope this reflects a new subgenre of romance emerging.