Despite my love for Lorraine Heath and her historical romances the beginning of Once More, My Darling Rogue left me a little cold. This is the second book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series, which is a spin-off of the Scoundrels of St. James series and while I was excited to get Drake Darling’s (aka Peter Sykes) story, I wasn’t too thrilled with the choice for his love interest. Seriously, she is not nice when the story opens and in fact treats the hero like dirt underneath her feet. Not a great first impression.
Lady Ophelia Lyttleton and Drake Darling have a dislike for each other that knows no bounds. She despises his common roots and thinks he ought to be reminded at every turn how far beneath her and every other member of the Ton he dwells, despite being taking in as a boy and raised in the Duke and Duchess of Greystone’s household. It’s almost painful to read, the way she uses words to belittle him at a society function in front of his friends and family.
“Boy,” she repeated with a touch more arrogance, “do fetch me some champagne, and be quick about it.”
Drake puts up with her behavior for two reasons. One, she is his sister’s best friend and Grace Mabry is a strong, intelligent woman so there must be some reason she has kept Ophelia close. Two, Drake honestly believes the hateful words are truth. The son of a murderer, born and raised for the first several years of his life on the streets, he truly believes that the blood that runs through his veins mark him as inferior and dirty.
He bathed every night, scrubbed his body viciously, but he could not scrape the grime of the streets off his skin. His family had embraced him, their friends had embraced him, but he still knew what he was, knew from whence he’d come.
Of course there are hints dropped at the beginning about why Ophelia behaves and thinks the way she does, so I knew there was a backstory waiting to unfold and give an explanation for her unsavory behavior. Still, I was a little unsure if Ms. Heath could transform this young woman into someone who I could sympathize with or even connect to. It’s early on when Drake discovers her floating in the Thames and takes her to his townhouse to recover. She wakes with no memory at all of her previous life. She doesn’t know her name or station in life or even who Drake is to her. This is when Drake Darling, manager of one of the most successful gentlemen’s clubs in London, adopted son of the Duke and Duchess of Greystone and confirmed bachelor decides to teach his enemy a lesson.
When she awakes confused, he leads her to believe that she is really his housekeeper. He fully intends for it to only last a day or two at the most, just long enough to bring ‘Phee’ off her high horse a bit. But as one day moves to the next and she slowly evolves into a woman who he can’t help but admire he finds himself unable to let her go and afraid that she will regain her memory and realize what he’s done.
I was even more hesitant at the introduction of amnesia to the storyline as this is not a trope I usually enjoy, especially when there is revenge involved. It just shows how much I trust this author that I continued to carry on. Thank goodness I did, because I found myself truly enjoying Drake and Phee’s story.
Phee’s transformation from a rude, uptight, mean lady of the ton to a simple, kind friend and lover was lovely. Yes, this is Drake and Ophelia’s love story, but she is the character that has the biggest growth and it’s her backstory that drives the conflict and resolution. Drake is pretty much along for the ride. Actually, Drake tries to talk himself out of his desire and developing feelings for her over and over, but the woman who overcomes every obstacle and who takes to her new life with enthusiasm and kindness becomes so compelling that he just can’t help himself. Amnesia becomes something that grants Phee another chance at happiness. A chance for her to overcome her fears and blossom into the woman who she was meant to be. It’s this woman who will enchant readers and have them rooting for her as she and Drake discover each other anew. There is a truly wonderful HEA for this couple that is followed up with an epilogue in Drake’s POV that wraps everything up very nicely.
In the end I found myself delighted with this story and these characters. Lorraine Heath is one of the rare historical romance authors who I can depend on to deliver a thoughtful, sweet, romantic love story every time. Final Grade- B-
Yes, if she’d ever been with him before she’d have remembered.
She’d have remembered him filling her inch by slow inch. The weight of him, the fullness of him, the way her body closed so tightly around him. The deep groan he uttered as he buried his face in her hair.
Yes, she’d have remembered.