My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Scoundrel, Book 2 of Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series, came across my radar with a bang thanks to the Smart Bitches Trashy Books ladies and their current montly book club. As I mentioned in my review of Book 1, Warrior, I was very happy to see a cover with a hero who’s not only fully dressed, but who also seemed to come right out of a mold I find most swoonable indeed: the Indiana Jones archetype, ready for adventure.
Even more so that with Book 1, Scoundrel delivered this in spades. I enjoyed Scoundrel quite a bit more, in no small part due to the hero. Bennett Day of the Blades of the Rose is an unhesitant rake, cheerfully cutting a swath through the dozens of women willing to go at it with him in the sheets in between his far more serious missions for his compatriots, and sometimes both at once. Little does he know he’s about to meet up with London Harcourt, the daughter of an Heir of Albion–and whose husband Bennett in fact once killed. London has no idea whatsoever of the nefarious activities of her father and spouse, and suffice to say, her worldview is blown wide open when she finds out that her father has hauled her off to Greece to make use of her gift with ancient languages. Harcourt’s bent on tracking down the same Source Bennett’s pursuing, and Bennett and his fellow Blades have no choice but to abduct London, clue her in, and hope like hell that she’ll defect to their team and help them.
A couple of things kicked Scoundrel up another notch over Book 1 for me. One is the secondary romance playing out between the witch Athena and the boat captain Kallas, which was in some ways almost more fun than the primary romance of London and Bennett–but only almost, because I had great fun with them too. I very much liked that London had refreshingly little angst about Bennett’s womanizing ways, which led beautifully into Bennett flooring himself with his obligatory Realization of True Love(TM). The big revelation of said True Love in particular was quite charming; look for the “monkeys in hats” lines, here.
I also have to give Archer props for actually making me not skim past a sex scene, for once. If an author is going to actually make me read a sex scene, she needs to have either a masterful command of the language and make me swoon on the sheer power of words alone. Or, she needs to say something interesting about the involved characters, and give me something more to go on than just the physical depiction. Archer does the latter in a goddess-play scene that I’ll freely admit was, indeed, rather hot for the delightful things it said about London as a character and as a woman.
Meanwhile, in the main plot, we’ve got ourselves a chase through Greece through lovingly described islands and waters. The Heirs are still fairly flat as villains–I still never really get a sense of any of the Heirs as actual people rather than bad guys spouting “For the Glory of Britain!” Here, though, London’s father is actually genuinely creepy in the final big showdown between them. The Heirs’ dark mage, as well, is legitimately creepy in a scene involving torture.
All in all not something to take too seriously, but a highly engaging read nonetheless, in no small part because of the charm of London and Bennett. Four stars.