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The Scoundrel    by Claire Delacroix order for
by Claire Delacroix
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

Readers first met Gawain Lammergeier, Merlyn's rascally brother, in the previous book of this series, The Rogue. At that time it seemed like Gawain had no redeeming features and it might surprise readers to find that the author has seen fit to give him a story of his own.

Gawain is a thief who knows nothing but self-interest and seems proud of his lack of character. While on a journey, he meets and is seduced by a sensuous and beautiful young woman. The next morning the master thief awakens to find that he's been robbed, and that his seductress has made off with a priceless reliquary! Intrigued, he pursues the audacious wench. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse between a master of stealth and an exceedingly clever woman.

The mysterious woman is Lady Evangeline of Inverfyre. She seduced Gawain to steal back the scared relic which Gawain and his father stole from her father. She hopes that the good fortune which departed Inverfyre with the relic's disappearance will also return with it. She knows what kind of a man Gawain is, but fails to take into account the vagaries of heart. Now she's torn between strong feelings for a scoundrel of the first order and duty to her people. And what about Gawain? Can a leopard truly change his spots?

Claire Delacroix spins another historical tale brimming with mystery and passion. The book begins like countless other historical romances with misunderstandings between the leads, which of course will be resolved in the next two hundred pages. However, what makesThe Scoundrel stand out is a plot with more twists than a slalom - just when you anticipate the happy ending, the story twists onto another track altogether.

While Evangeline's complex thinking is not always understandable, her motives are laudable, and Gawain's gradual transformation seems sincere. Mysticism, prophecies, secret passages, ruthless lairds, assassinations, haunted woods, mysterious crones, ancient relics are just some of the ingredients of this clever romance. Authentic historical details add depth. The Scoundrel is worth reading and re-reading.

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