THE DANGER OF DESIRE is less a romance novel than it is a novelized checklist of many of the most prominent tropes in historical romance. Sure, you may have heard the snarky adage, "If you've read one romance, you've read them all" but I mean it.
✓ cross-dressing shenanigans
✓ shotgun marriage
✓ financial ruin
✓ gambling/card den scenes
✓ well-meaning but nosy female friends
✓ the obligatory carriage seduction/tupping scene
✓ hero is tortured by the past
✓ hero is a whoring womanizer, does not want marriage
✓ heroine is plucky
✓ heroine does not want marriage
Part of what makes a romance stand on its own two feet (so to speak) is what the author does with the tropes. And Sabrina Jeffries is a good writer in the sense that she can string words together and make them look good. In the beginning, I was charmed by the banter between the hero and the heroine, Warren and Delia, and intrigued by the mystery surrounding the Delia's brother's suicide. Who was the man responsible? Was he the murderer? Would Delia be in danger, as well?
Interestingly, THE DANGER OF DESIRE suffers many of the same flaws as the last historical romance novel I read, THE BRIDE by Julie Garwood. Both feature pig-headed alpha male heroes who attempt to assert their male dominance by acting like total bouche-dags. I got tired of hearing Warren whining about his night terrors and how he didn't want to give up other women. It's hard to fall in love with a guy who sounds like someone you might have broken up with yourself.
Also like THE BRIDE, the death subplot goes nowhere and the pacing starts to fall apart in the last act of the book. I started skimming over sex scenes, or needlessly sappy descriptions of the hero and heroine professing their love for one another. I'm all for love, but I really don't need to read an entire paragraph of how adorable the heroine is when she's snoring, or how her breasts look like "two custards" topped with "juicy cherries."
This is my third Sabrina Jeffries and it falls in the middle of the other two I read. I did not enjoy THE WIDOW'S AUCTION at all, but STORMSWEPT, the book I read under her Deborah Martin pen name, was actually quite enjoyable. Despite its bouchey hero, STORMSWEPT features a compelling plot, misunderstandings worthy of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and a relatively fast pace. (It also refers to the female genitals as a "honeypot", so THE DANGER OF DESIRE gets an extra point for not doing that, although breast custard may be just as bad.)
Maybe I've read too many bodice rippers, but so many of these modern romances feel like they're trying to mask the stuff that leaves the bitter taste in your mouth with waaaay too much sweet stuff. Stuff like honeypots and custard. (Not that this makes it any easier to swallow - blech!) I may have to give her Deborah Martin books another look-over, since they're older and appear to be more in line with my tastes - I don't want to give up on this author, yet!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book. Obviously I wasn't biased in the slightest. ;)
2 out of 5 stars.