This book is unlike any historical I’ve read in quite some time. Sure you have scandal, a damsel in distress, and high society in all its glory, but Meredith Duran tells her tale with such fervor and mystique it keeps you turning page after page.
First Duran hooks you with our slightly less than honest heroine, Olivia Mather. I’m not even 100% sure which last name to use for her, since she had several aliases. I loved her for her strength, wit, and cunning but also for the fact she was capable of empathy. It would have been easy for her to play the whoa-is-me, wilting flower as she continues to seek a quiet life of safety and security while hiding from her father, Lord Bertram. Instead she hatches a plan to seek revenge on Bertram even if she has to claw and fight her way through to do it. Many of the details of Olivia’s past are withheld until later in the story when they’re revealed for maximum impact. Not knowing exactly how all the pieces fit together is part of the allure, and just once you think you know how it’s all going to work out, Duran adds another twist that turns things upside down again.
If you don’t love Olivia, a second draw is the intriguing Alastair de Grey, Duke of Marwick. He’s going through some very dark times after the death of his wife and discovering her infidelity and deceit. Typically in historicals the male lead is portrayed as somewhat arrogant and pompous, but Marwick seems neither. In fact he’s so withdrawn he hasn’t bathed in days, possibly weeks. What was once England’s brightest political star has fallen into the depths of despair, and it seems no one can rescue him. Well, until Olivia joins his staff as his new housekeeper. She makes it her duty to get him out of his rooms – so she can search them, not out of the goodness of her heart. Their interactions are highly entertaining and very unusual for a master and servant which I felt was totally appropriate for the level of dishonesty between them. Alastair knows there’s something up and all isn’t what it seems with his housekeeper, it just takes him a while to figure out exactly what the truth is.
I loved seeing each of these characters grow and change throughout the story. Each has strengths and weaknesses that are bolstered by the other, and neither will remain unchanged by their time together. I think Duran did a phenomenal job of building the tension – both romantic and sexual – between them. Never was it so over the top as to seem contrived, yet it definitely brought the heat and added to my overall enjoyment of the story.
One of the best parts for me was having Olivia and Alastair work together to solve the mystery of Olivia’s past and resolve matters with Lord Bertram. I know I’ve said this about many books, but I really enjoy when the two main characters work together for a common goal. It builds and strengthens a connection between them that I love. In this case part of the danger Olivia encounters while handling matters gives Alastair the push he needs to acknowledge the depth of his feelings for her – one of my favorite moments of all.
Fool Me Twice is the second book in the Rules for the Reckless series. It’s nice to see the characters from the first book, That Scandalous Summer, as well as the prequel novella, Your Wicked Heart, mentioned or make an appearance here. This gives me hope that we’ll possibly continue to see Olivia and Alastair as well. While stalking Meredith Duran’s website for any information on a potential third book, I noticed that two other books are connected to this series. Bound by Your Touch and Written on Your Skin both take place simultaneously with That Scandalous Summer. I haven’t read either of those, so I guess I know what I’m doing next.
RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!