HIS AT NIGHT by Sherry Thomas

It's time for some Regency romance with His at Night, a Sherry Thomas novel that combines mysteries, damsels in distress, and manly males to create a romance that's as much about forgiveness as about love, His at Night has its hero and heroine meetings through a big coincidence. Elissande Edgerton lives, with her Aunt Rachel, as a prisoner of her sadistic, controlling "boo! hiss!" evil Uncle Edmund Douglas. When, through a neighbor's home's sudden rat infestation, several people move temporarily into the Douglas home, Elissande hatches a plan: Find a wealthy single man, get them caught in a compromising position, marry him, and rescue her aunt and herself from the home. This seems easier -- at first -- with her immediate attraction to Lord Vere.

Lord Vere has his own mysteries. Lord Vere is an amazingly intelligent secret agent for the British government, who acts like a moron and klutz to everyone but his fellow agents. His current assignment is to investigate Edmund Douglas for fraud involving diamonds, and he arranges the rat problem to get into the Douglas home to look for evidence. Of course he is also lonely, and when he meets Elissande he thinks she's the fantasy woman he's been dreaming about. Of course, complications ensue. Elissande quickly becomes exhausted by Vere's continual rambling, clumsiness, and stupidity; while Vere thinks Elissande is a shrewd actress out to snare any rich man as her husband -- worse, that she has her eves on Vere's brother Frederick. But soon they are found together, a quick marriage follows, and the two people who couldn't stand each other begin to learn the truth behind each other's facade. And while this happens, more and more dark secrets about Edmund Douglas come to light; and with them, more danger...

His at Night is a bit unusual for a romance novel. Instead of what Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books called "the big mis" (the misunderstanding that must be resolved for the characters to be together), this time the obstacle to the hero and heroine are the very real lies both characters have maintained, and suffered behind, their whole lives; the challenge lies not in straightening out the misunderstanding, but getting past their deceptions -- to others and themselves -- to move forward. There is plenty of comedy, from the swarm of rats to Elissende's reaction to first seeing Vere ("Her heart raced with a burst of nerve-wracking happiness. He rescued young women from plagues of rats; he had lovely friends; he looked like a hero of classical antiquity") to Elissende's attempts at getting Vere to reveal his identity. There's also a sweet, contrasting romance between Frederick and Angelica, two people who have been friends for so long that they have trouble becoming lovers. His at Night also shared some of the excesses of romance novels. Edmund Douglas is the sort of villain who is so evil and without any redeeming qualities, you'd think he ate pure evil for every meal. Both the hero and heroine have tragic pasts which give them nightmares. And Vere shows signs of the alpha male hero, the devastatingly handsome, sexual dynamo whose dominance is thrilling and part of the appeal. The drama sometimes tips over into melodrama, the worries and passions reaching almost ridiculous heights.

But His at Night is enjoyable nevertheless, a tale about two people getting over their initial attractions, and then repulsions, to find love not in physical beauty but in learning about each other -- and revealing themselves in the process. His at Night is a quick read, a romantic roller-coaster ride of mystery and character development.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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