RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Danger of Desire by Elizabeth Essex


Title: The Danger of Desire
Author: Elizabeth Essex
Publication Info: Kensington 2011
ISBN: 978-0758251589
Genre: Historical: European

Book Cover This review was written by Katherine This story was nominated in the Best Historical Romance category.

The summary: Captain Hugh McAlden is working on a top-secret mission to bring down enemy spies living in England. After seeing a young woman perform a brilliant bit of pick pocketing on the London streets, he impulsively decides to hire her to help him. The only name she'll give him is Meggs, and she refuses to tell him anything about her background or how she ended up on the streets. But as Hugh tries to unravel her secrets, he also finds her harder and harder to resist…

And here is Katherine's review:

This could have been a really good book, instead of just a better than average book.  It coulda been a…oh wait, it is a contender.  Who's responsible for making these nominations, anyway, and what are they drinking? Still, I liked Danger of Desire enough to read the previous book in the series, Pursuit of Pleasure, which as it happens was a mistake.  I'm hoping this means that the next book will be commensurately better.

Bad news first.  A lot of the plot is appallingly contrived, and that gets worse as it goes on, bogging things down so much that the final third of the book should have been cut altogether.  The story is meandering, and lack of structure doesn't suit a spy story.  The hero's motivations are largely baffling.  I can't abide ye faithful servant characters, and they pop in and out of the story like…like…um, weasels, I guess.  I am personally unfamiliar with weasel antics but have heard that they go pop when chased by monkeys.


The good news comes with more bad news.  I liked the many unusual aspects (for example she's a pickpocket) and was disappointed that they aren't used to better effect ('I'm a prime filching mort I am' could be the cornerstone of a new drinking game) but are rapidly transformed into cliches spoiler (she's really Little Lady Fauntleroy).

I liked the scenes between the hero and heroine, although the slang and the colloquialisms and the general oliver twistiness can be oppressive.  The cant (what did you just call me?) is sometimes incorrect plus there are anachronisms.  Potato ragers be warned.

There's tension aplenty in the beginning.  After several aching chapters of denying their mutual lust (for refreshingly valid reasons), they are following a suspect and she tentatively suggests they'd be less conspicuous if they pretend to be sweethearts.  He then suggests he should probably put his arm around her, and she supposes maybe he should.  He wants to take advantage of the opportunity without taking advantage of her.*  She's practically giddy when he works up to holding her hand, and she's not the giddy type.  They're cute.  I want them to be happy.  spoiler They are! You guys! It works out!

Then she goes undercover, and the tension ratchets up even more.  I like a lot about the book, but this might be the only thing I like without qualification.

One of the things I like best is simultaneously irksome.  It's also a spoilerThe heroine is a surprise virgin (she grew up a thief in the slums, and early on admits to having been 'forced' so in all fairness to the hero it really is rather an improbable, unpleasant surprise for us as well).  The Unexpected Hymen (prose poem or theremin solo album?) is revealed after the hero hauls her out of her bath to penetrate her up against the wall.  He not only stops, he actually walks away, apologizing awkwardly. So I'm nigh apoplectic because she says no, but then is so devastated that he stops, that she decides to flee the house without speaking to him.  But lo, they work it out and have sex for realz (repeatedly) and it is awesome and wait, he's a virgin too!  I was so happy about this it was like finding a unicorn.  Of course, we have to take his word for it, because it just seems so unlikely at his age and there is no kind of fumbling, and he's fabulously skilled, and she's able to climax readily before he does, and …but whatever, enough things are unusual in the situation to intrigue and delight me.

This isn't a solidly decent kind of B-, it's an inseparable mix of good and bad that in the end is slightly – but definitively – more entertaining than it is irksome.  And by 'in the end' I don't mean the actual end of the book, which was derailed by an asinine subplot, nor do I mean anything dirty.

*I was copying it out while ostensibly listening to my mom on the phone, so I made a hash of things and the library sucked it off my ereader before I could check it, but one of his lines in this scene is something very like “And maybe touch her a little? As if he'd earned the right to?” which I find endearing, because much as he wants to touch her, he also wants to have earned the right to.

This book is available from: Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Faye says:

    I’m intrigued, but the spy + pickpocket plot was done so well by Joanna Bourne that I’m afraid even the good parts of this will fade in comparison, and then I’ll be left with the popping weasel-servants. But the details of that spoiler (the one in its own nice big paragraph) might be enough to overcome my reluctance.

  2. 2
    Sandra says:

    And while Joanna didn’t have a weasel, she did have a ferret who popped in and out….

  3. 3
    Sveta says:

    Out of curiosity, does this novel take place in Regency? (You know, no other history besides Regency even exists :) ) *Sarcasm*


  4. 4
    CarrieS says:

    More reviews by Katherine, please.  Loved the spoilers.

  5. 5
    Bnbsrose says:

    “…they pop in and out of the story like…like…um, weasels, I guess.”

    Or whack-a-moles. Which would make a body feel much better.

    Great reveiw Katherine.

  6. 6
    hechicera says:

    What’s a potato rager?

  7. 7
    Bnbsrose says:

    Potatoes are a New World food. You can tell how much research, or general knowlege, someone has about a period of time based on whether they’re eating potatoes before or after Columbus sailed the ocean blue. A writer who has boiled potatoes at the medieval jousting banquent can send a well educated reader into a rage. It is now a general term for any rant about anacronisms in historical fiction.

  8. 8
    kkw says:

    It is ostensibly set in Regency England, yes.

    It is nowhere near as good as a Joanna Bourne novel, and it isn’t really reminiscent of one, because despite certain obvious similarities, it’s just…well, it’s just not that good.

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