I could read an entire series with these 2 characters LOVED it. Ignore the cover, Egyptian based HR
Reviewed in the United States on 12 December 2021
There are so many Loretta Chase books that I love - this is one of my favorites. Maybe because I'm partial to HRs set in Egypt. Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series was an early favorite of mine - an adventurous funny series about a couple of Egyptologists with a love (or habit) of solving mysteries - romantic but clean unlike this one which has a nice bit of steam (which I prefer honestly). This one has all the Egyptian adventure I love - pyramids tombs ruins, the suq (market) travel down the Nile by dahabeeyah (yacht), donkeys, camels, sandstorms - everything. Chase always does enough research to make her settings believable and paint a vivid picture, whether it's England, France, Italy, Albania or Egypt. Her books are so varied in setting and style - and FUN.
She does humor wonderfully - and this one is hilarious at times - I laughed or at least smiled on each page, I hated to put it down. The characters come alive and the story is entertaining and interesting.
Our hero, Rupert, is the 4th son of Earl Carsington. He may as well have been have been called Mr. Perfect, or Mr. Adorable (alright, he'd hate that) because to me he was the perfect hero. He's not a brooder (not that I mind those. Loved lord of Scoundrels) he has a sunny irreverent personality, and he's deliciously male but not an alpha (not that I always mind those either)- the man supports his heroine like no other - and I prefer that. Who wouldn't want a big handsome man who's nearly always in a good mood, always on your side and always there to catch you if you fall (and carry you, to bed if he can, hopefully)?
We meet Rupert as he's happily dispatching an extraordinarily well armed soldier who is beating an unfortunate Egyptian - singlehandedly and unarmed himself. No problem for him, and apparently not unusual either. He's arrested. Again. Our softhearted hero (defender of the weak with a soft spot and natural way with animals too from snakes to mongooses to donkeys) is a man of action who loves a good fight and is a bit over zealous impetuous and impulsive - he has a way of getting himself into expensive messes he's in need of being bailed out of. Not unlike his brother Alistair in the previous book in the series (another great hero) Which is why his Father decided to recommend him to the British consulate in Egypt in the first place, similar to what he'd done with Alistair earlier in his life. The consulate, having had to bail him out several times previous as well, are a bit reluctant (and cash strapped) to do so again, so when our rich heroine comes to them for assistance they are happy to recommend his services, hoping to make him HER expensive problem.
Daphne is living her dream in Egypt devoting herself to trying to translate the Rosetta Stone to read hieroglyphics, which no one has done at that time. She's the daughter of a vicar and wealthy widow of a theologian nearly 3 times her age, still in her widow's weeds 5 years after his death more to hide herself, then because she mourns the disapproving old nag. She's bookish and brilliant - but since intelligent women are frowned upon in her society and it's been drilled into her (by said old stick in the mud, literally now) that her intellect makes her unnatural and unfeminine in the extreme, she hides her scholarship, crediting her work to her tomb and treasure loving brother Miles. When Miles goes missing she seeks help, convinced he's been kidnapped.
Her first meeting with Rupert in the dungeon - where she buys him as she puts it - is hilarious. Rupert is irrepressibly cheerful, even there, with laughing black eyes and a Puckish sense of humor which compels him to tease. In provoking her with his self deprecating humor he convinces Miss Not-as-smart-as-she-thinks in the real world that he's an imbecile, mentally defective, and her favorite a blockhead. "That man... is an idiot" she tells the consul "Yes, madam, but he's all we've got" they tell her, and "I may be stupid, but I'm irresistibly attractive" Rupert offers by means of selling himself, adding "And being a great, dumb ox..I'm wonderfully easy to manage"
He's actually anything but stupid )but being easy going he is amenable) it's funny knowing that while watching Miss Are-you-blind think otherwise.
There is an immediate attraction between the two - but it's not insta-lust, it takes a while, until the attraction is based on more than just the physical, before they act on it. I loved how Mr. Perfect becomes more attracted to Daphne because of her intellect, not despite it, unlike her prudish first husband- he loves her passion and enthusiasm, for her subject before it's for him - something Miss Obtuse can't seem to fathom for an annoyingly long time.
Rupert Not-a-dumb-ox realizes her brother Miles (who should have his own story) hasn't just wandered off to the whore house as the consul suggests when a papyrus is stolen from Daphne while she's haggling (in a way that made me laugh out loud) over his price of release. Her brother - the supposed expert on Egyptian texts - had paid an exorbitant sum for it, and the villains wrongly assumed he must only have done so because he'd managed to decipher it enough to know that the hype was actually real and it was a treasure map to an unfound and so unrobbed fabulously rich tomb of some Pharaoh - which they expect him to lead them too. Oops.
The story is a bit complex, but not too hard to follow. There are two rival groups of villains involved - one French and one English, led by a ruthless and well backed Lord with a funny nickname, both competing for Miles and the treasure. Rupert - who's inner and unsuspected by him knight in shining armor instincts have been awakened is going to have a lot of dragons to slay to win his damsel in distress since Lord Noxious is also a rival for her affection (more like her money).
Our knight, who everyone including Daphne begins to think is more of a genie than an ox, a force of nature able to work magic, despite having supposed to have been only the brawn to Daphne's brains, proves quite capable in following the trail of the kidnappers all while rescuing the damsel, repeatedly. This damsel, like all Chase heroines (she writes the best) despite being bookish and boring (she thinks) and unused to action (or the world outside of books) proves to be not only intelligent, determined, strong and not missish but adventurous and capable in her own right. Rupert's not only accepting but encouraging (being excited by it) her to - which no other man had or would have - brings her daring and previously repressed physical side to life, in more ways than one.
Her adventurous side includes of course includes the amorous kind as well. The much unlamented old prude had told her that was unnatural and unwomanly too, and it takes the very physical (and swoonworthy) hero to not only awaken it but free her to express it.
It was fun watching two endearing characters fall in love - while on an exciting adventure. The banter was hilarious the chemistry and tension between them as the steam slowly built was delicious (as was the steam when released). They made a great duo - a team. I LOVED how Mr. Perfect hero always supported her when she needed his support - physically and emotionally. I do wish, since down to earth say it like it is Rupert told her enough times, that Daphne had more faith in his affection and him - as with most HRs her insecurities and doubts lingered a bit too long for me - though it took the lummox some time to understand exactly WHAT those never before felt and somewhat disturbing "feelings" he had for her were - love obviously you big lug!
I also appreciated how not only was Rupert, man (and what a) that he was, protective of Daphne, but that she was protective of him. I can't stand it when a heroine just stands back and lets her man do all the fighting while she cowers behind him - Daphne doesn't hesitate to jump into the fray, and do her best to keep Mr. Impulsive from harm. And he, in no way being insecure about his masculinity (again like her husband - and why would he?) lets her.
Like other reviewers I seriously would have loved an entire ongoing series with these two characters - like the Peabody Emerson series I'd love to read and re-read the Daphne Rupert series. But as it was written in 2005 and this sadly is the only one I suppose that's not to be. I can think of many adventures they could have shared in Egypt and I'd gladly devour each one of them (PLEASE!) I'll definitely be re-reading this one. And I do wish Miles had gotten his own book, but I don't see that either (hint hint).
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