An English gentleman lived by a code of honor, but does that also apply to rakes? Even if he is a gentleman by birth do his actions make the man? An Affair of Honor plays on that premise in an amusing way.
After being thrown from his curricle and hitting his head, Colin Herriot, Viscount Sedgewick thinks he sees an angel hovering over him, so he must be dead. Better angels than devils; though his capricious life and rakish ways should equal the later. The figure dons coppery curls and creamy skin so he must be in heaven.
Cradled gently in her arms, Meg Ashburton recognizes the injured traveler immediately as Lord Sedgewick whom she met six years prior during her London Season of 1808. She was a gangly debutante imitating a wallflower. He was a handsome rake with an infamous smile and scandalous reputation. He gallantly asked her to dance. She was smitten. She would never forget the handsome, charming man who showed kindness to one who others of his station would not give the time of day. She doubted that he remembered her.
Meg and her brother Terrence rescue Sedge and bring him to their home, Thornhill, a horse-breeding farm not far away from the scene of the accident. His head injury and broken leg bring on a serious fever which engulfs him for days. Letters are sent to his family and soon Cousin Albert Herriot arrives to see him improving, well cared for, but bedridden until his leg mends. Sedge is unconcerned when Terrence tells him that the axel of his curricle was purposely cut. Who could possibly want to harm him? He truly believes that it was just an accident.
After her disastrous debut season six years ago, Meg has had no interest in men and does not realize the beautiful woman that she has become. Sedge does and is immediately attracted to her. She enjoys their time together as she helps care for him during his convalescence. She hopes he might propose. Cousin Bertie sees the attraction building between Meg and his cousin and tells Terrence that Sedge is not the marrying kind. Meg overhears his warning to her brother and the reality check hits her hard, so hard that when Sedge decides to propose she believes that he is playing true to form as the consummate rake and wants to engage her as his mistress and not his wife. This misunderstanding separates them brusquely and he returns to London a sullen man totally baffled by her refusal. She is totally offended by his dishonorable proposal. “He wanted her for his mistress. He could not have been more plain. He wanted her body and was willing to pay for it. What a fool she had been!”
This is the third novel in the Regency Rakes Trilogy and I am sure it is no surprise that all three heroes in the series meet their match and fall in love; these novels are romances after all. Each of the stories is connected through the friendship of the three men: Robert Cameron in A Proper Companion, Jack Raeburn in A Change of Heart and Colin Herriot in An Affair of Honor. Each are aristocratic libertines who have seduced women, gambled, drank, and avoided romance for many years, yet each in their own way is changed by the love of a woman.
Colin, or “Sedge” to his friends, is the last holdout of the group. The story opens brilliantly with the scene of the carriage accident and renewed acquaintance with Meg, an unlikely heroine who does not realize the power of her beauty or the charm of her own personality. It is a stark contrast to our hero who knows exactly the effect of his charms and plays them like a masterful musician. We don’t trust him, nor do we trust Meg’s inexperienced judgment. It is a perplexing misalliance.
The characterizations in An Affair of Honor are articulated and engaging. Hern gave herself a big challenge by confining the hero to his sickbed for half of the novel. To compensate we are given a generous helping of inner exposition, so be prepared for a slower pace. There is an interesting mystery that threads its way through the story which, though predictable, was intriguing. I was hoping for an Agatha Christie-like twist at the end, but we do get our share of romance. Huzzah indeed! “…he was a cad, she was a fool…” but who isn’t when it comes to love?
4 out of 5 Stars
An Affair of Honor: A Regency Romance by Candice Hern
Trade paperback (278) pages
Book cover image courtesy © Candice Hern 2012; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose