A Dangerous Bargain
Standing in the English drawing room, Hart Moreland, the Earl of Perth, seemed the quintessential aristocrat: remote, imperious, sophisticated. But Mercy Coltrane had last seen him six years earlier in Texas. There they called him Duke: a lank, sun-scarred gunfighter with eyes as hard as the steel of his Colt .44. Fearless and without remorse, he never failed to complete a job. That was why she had followed him here. That was why she needed him now.
A Dangerous Passion
Hart remembered the beautiful red-haired American. After all, six years earlier, he had shot her. Now he saw those terrible memories in her glittering eyes as she threatened to expose his scandalous past -- unless he helped find her missing brother. Blackmail was a dangerous game to play with a hard man like Hart. But it wasn't until he pulled her into his arms, unleashing the sudden heat of unexpected passion, that Mercy Coltrane knew the threat to her heart of... A DANGEROUS MAN
Good book, a bit different than the usual England based historical. It begins with the explosive first encounter of Mercy and Hart back in Texas, then jumps six years and over the ocean to England. Mercy has come to England to find her brother who has disappeared, except for a few letters asking for money. She's had no success, so she comes to Hart, who has gone back to his real life as the Earl of Perth, hoping to convince him to help. It's not a pleasant meeting. Hart has worked very hard to keep his past a secret, not wanting anything to affect his sisters' standing in society and having Mercy around threatens to ruin it all.
Mercy is desperate to find her brother. She feels responsible for the rift between him and their father and wants to get them back together, but she can't find him. Her trip to England from Texas is supposedly to find a husband, but she could care less about that. She has found Lord Perth and is determined to get his help. She runs into some trouble because he isn't the least bit interested in helping her. Meanwhile she's having an interesting time of her own as part of the same house party. Her Texan attitudes just don't mix well with the Victorian way of doing things. I loved the whole shooting competition and how Mercy teased Hart into participating. That was the first real sign of the sparks the were flying between them. Mercy refused to give up her search and ended up blackmailing Hart into helping her. She was also determined to help in the search. She had a couple of times when she was a real idiot and could have made things much worse, but got lucky. Spending as much time as she did with Hart, she soon realized that the cold, hard man that everyone sees is hiding a man who is hiding a lot of pain. One of the things I liked best about her was how she got him to open up to her and how she tried to relieve some of his pain. She also fell hard for him, even though she was sure nothing would come of it because of the huge differences between them.
Hart is a man who keeps iron control over himself and his emotions at all times. Years ago he had become a soldier to help support his family, later going to America to earn more for the same reason. He has done things that haunt his memories and give him nightmares, and make him avoid being around people too much. He guards his secrets, fearing what kind of damage they could do to his sisters if they were revealed. Having Mercy show up threatens what little peace he has. He denies her request for his help not wanting anything to do with that life again. But he also can't deny how much she intrigues him and attracts him. It was fun watching him try to fight it, especially during the shooting scene. Thanks to her blackmail he has to help her and at first it really angers him, especially when she forces him to take her along. It isn't long before he wants to help her on his own. The scene where she finds him battling his nightmares is heartbreaking as we see everything that is haunting him. I loved how he was able to tell her everything. The events of the next morning were funny in a way as Hart gets what he wants but is afraid to take. I really enjoyed the ending.
The mystery of her brother Will's whereabouts was well done. It gave a look at some of the less pleasant parts of Victorian London. There was more to his disappearance than was first suspected and it was interesting to see how it played out. The revelation of the person behind his disappearance was a bit of a surprise.
I also found the other characters to be well done. Lady Acton was a typical society matriarch with the attitudes and prejudices of her time. She also seemed to have a tight control over her son, who was supposedly courting Hart's sister Annabelle. Of Hart's three sisters I liked Beryl the best. She seemed to have an excellent head on her shoulders as was shown later in the book. I liked the way she treated Mercy and her reaction to Hart's revelations was excellent. I found Fanny to be the most forgettable of the sisters with her constant weeping. Annabelle turned out to be a total bitch and completely deserves the mother-in-law that she gets. I would have liked to see more of an epilogue and some hint of what happens with Will.