From the Back Cover:
A Lady in Disguise
Desperate to leave her past behind, Claudine Valencourt is less than thrilled to encounter the one man she could never forget. Not surprisingly, gorgeous self-made millionaire Leonardo Barnett doesn’t recognize her when he walks into a sleazy Paris cabaret in the middle of her performance. He never took much notice of her in the first place, and seven years have passed since her unfortunate infatuation. No longer naïve about men, she’s well aware of his womanizing reputation, but when he promises her exactly what she needs—escape, a means of independence, a new beginning in New York—she can’t resist.
Despite her best judgment, she can’t resist Leo either. When the allegedly self-absorbed entertainment magnate surprises her with compassion, tenderness, and wit, her dormant longings flame back to life stronger than ever. But dare she trust him with her secrets and her heart? With adventure and exquisite passion come disturbing revelations and inconceivable dangers for a lady pretending to be someone she’s not.
A Millionaire’s Prize
After one woman’s treachery destroyed his future, it took years for Leo to rebuild his life and succeed on his own terms. It only takes a few days for a vulnerable young beauty with a heartbreaking voice to pierce through his cynicism and defenses. Her warmth and guileless sensuality reveal a protective instinct he never knew he had and a desire that was there all along. His self-restraint battles with his yearning to keep his precious discovery for himself, and he soon realizes the folly of promises he could never keep.
I loved Bess Greenfield's historical romance debut, The Count's Last Mistress, and so I couldn't wait to read the follow-up. Rescued by the Rake takes place many years later and features Claudine, the daughter of that book's hero and heroine, Jeanne and Olivier, and Leo, the son of Jeanne's best friend, whom we also met in the first book. It is not necessary to read The Count's Last Mistress first, though I recommend it if you get the chance!
Our story begins with Claudine trying to escape a scandal and her parents' disappointment by singing for a living in a seedy Paris cabaret. She never expects her childhood crush, whom no one has seen in years, to find her and offer her a new chance at life in America. Leo doesn't recognize the little girl who used to follow him around like a puppy; he only sees a potential star for his new theater. Drawn by her combination of innocence and sexuality, he determines to conduct himself as a gentleman and take the naive girl under his wing, protecting her from harm while helping her find her way to fame and fortune. But his determination doesn't last long in the face of their mutual attraction and close quarters. As the lines between business and pleasure blur, love blossoms, but they are both keeping secrets. Leo still doesn't know who Claudine really is or why she's running away, nor does he know about her mission to find her stepbrother. And Claudine doesn't know what forced Leo to run away himself, or if a man of his reputation can be trusted with her heart. But they'll have to figure it out fast because those secrets are about to be exposed with deadly consequences.
Unfortunately, there were several issues that kept me from enjoying this story as much as I wanted to. Though she does have redeeming qualities, most notably her love for and determination to find her missing stepbrother, Claudine is a little more naive than I like my heroines to be, and she makes some infuriating decisions. I also grew a little weary of her repeatedly placing herself in dangerous situations with lecherous men. Leo, on the other hand, is quite sharp and intriguing, and I found his backstory fascinating, though I did think his affection for Claudine came on too quickly to be believable given his history. And I also grew frustrated with the author's habit of starting scenes by picking up after something happened and explaining it in hindsight rather than letting the reader experience it firsthand. This type of storytelling didn't make the best use of the dual point of view structure and didn't allow me to experience the story as intimately as I'd have liked. And finally, I had really been looking forward to the setting of this story, New York City in the late nineteenth century, and I was surprised to discover that a large portion of the novel takes place on board ship crossing the Atlantic. I really enjoyed the depiction of luxury traveling at sea, but we don't get as much description of life in New York as I'd hoped, and after the rich, lushly depicted atmosphere of Paris in the first book, I missed that ambiance.
It's entirely possible that my expectations for this novel were too high based on how much I enjoyed The Count's Last Mistress, and if I hadn't read that book first, I might not have felt as underwhelmed by this one. It's still a good story with plenty of action and romance and a diverse cast of supporting characters, and the movement of the story from Paris to ocean liner to New York with time spent in entertainment halls should appeal to readers looking for a change of scenery. I still think Bess Greenfield is a historical romance author to watch, but I'll be hoping for a little more "oomph" from her next novel.
My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
*This review originally appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews.