Scandal of the Black Rose
by Debra Mullins
Anna Rosewood misses her brother. She is convinced that her twin's death was no accident, and she is determined to find out who killed him and why. She'd found a paper with a strange symbol drawn on it in Anthony's possessions and feels sure that it will help her find out what happened to her brother. When she sees the same symbol on the ring of a young man at Vauxhall, she follows the young man's party. Too late she realizes she's caught up with a group of young men and the women they've hired to accompany them. Attempting to play the part of just another doxy, she is thrown into company with the handsomest man of the group, one who seems older and more intense than the others. Suddenly all thoughts of her brother are gone, and there is only a few minutes of passion with this stranger, pretending to be a prostitute named Rose. Anna escapes to return to her family, but the man invades her thoughts and dreams.
Roman Deveraux knows the young brother of a comrade has gotten himself involved with something dangerous. Roman vowed to treat young Peter as his brother when Peter's real brother died on the battlefield. At first Roman thought Peter was just in with a fast crowd, but soon Peter comes to him for help. He's gotten involved with a secret dueling club, The Black Rose Society. It had sounded innocent enough at first, but now someone has died and Peter wants to get out. If only Roman can get him out before Peter dies, too. When he comes face to face with the young woman he thought was a prostitute across the dinner table at his cousin's, Roman knows something very mysterious is going on. ”Rose” is really his cousin's fiancee!
When they tentatively join forces to solve the mystery of the Black Rose, Rome and Anna find that they are drawn to each other in a way they have no right to be. Roman cannot claim Anna for himself, because to do so would be to relive the scandal of his father's life. Anna cannot claim Roman, even though she is not actually formally engaged, because she and Roman's cousin have been destined since they were children. The passion they each know they can have together makes finding Anthony's killer and Peter's salvation all the more difficult.
Although the actual premise of the Black Rose Society seemed a bit far-fetched to me, I enjoyed this book. I liked Anna and her determination to find out why her brother died and who killed him. She occasionally annoyed me for being a bit immature, but that didn't weigh too heavily when it came to enjoyment of the story. Anna was strong, and yet bound to do what her family asked of her, and the difficulty she had with doing what she knew she had to do versus what she really wanted was well done.
Roman was an interesting character as well. He is at the point in his life where he wants more than just fun. The evening spent with young Peter and his friends makes him feel old and mature, and he's ready to settle down and find a worthwhile occupation. When he finds out that the woman he had been so drawn to at Vauxhall is really a well-born young woman and his cousin's intended to boot, Roman is disturbed. His cousin is the only one who had stood beside him when Roman's father made the family outcasts. He cannot repeat history with his cousin's bride-to-be. Again, as with Anna, duty wars with the desire of his heart.
The mystery part of the novel was interesting, and it was nice that I was not to be able to guess who actually was behind the secret society. The resolution of the romance was just as satisfying.
“Will the mystery of a secret society bring two lovers together or be their downfall?”
February 2006, 384 pages
Anna Rosewood had always known that her duty was to marry. But when her twin brother is killed under mysterious circumstances, she risks her pending betrothal to discover the truth, even posing as a light skirt at Vauxhall Gardens…
Roman Deveraux is investigating a secret dueling society whose members have been turning up dead when he comes across a doxy. She's oddly innocent, though it could very well be a game. Then, at a family dinner party, Rome realizes that the doxy he had been dallying with is no doxy at all, but the fiancee of his cousin!