Publisher: NAL Signet
Release: May 2004
Source: I purchased this book to read and review.
Sir Stephen Ball is the quiet member of the Company of Rogues. The lawyer and Member of Parliament whom the Rogues like to keep out of the action so he can act in an official capacity if necessary. Stephen, however, would dearly love an adventure.
More than that, Stephen dearly loves Laura Gardeyne, who as Laura Watcombe was his sister’s best friend and as close as a sister to him. He realized too late that his feelings weren’t brotherly, and anyway, he was too young to think of marriage when she married the dashing Hal Gardeyne.
Now, however, Hal is dead and Stephen visits Laura to try again to woo her. She’s in no mood for romance. Someone might have tried to poison her son and a dangerous mystery hangs over the whole Gardeyne family. Stephen decides that the best way to win his beloved would be to solve the mystery and ensure Laura and Harry’s safety. If his plan gets her alone with him in disguise in a small seaside town, all the better.
The 11th book in the “Company of Rogues” series, Skylark, allows us to better know Sir Stephen Ball – one of the more fringe members of the “Company of Rogues”. He is a lawyer and a member of parliament. He has been called on in other books to provide legal assistance, or to offer guidance on the ways of government. In previous books we see Stephen kept out of the direct action to prevent him from being legally implicated in the shenanigans that the Rogues get up to, but I have always seen him as stodgy. This books gave us glimpses into his childhood and the “real” person under the legal robes.
This story starts with the introduction of Laura Gardeyne as the widow of a fun-loving, but not very practical man. Stephen Ball comes to visit Laura exactly 1 year after her husband has died with the intention of winning her hand this time, not losing her to someone else as he did several years ago. They have a history from their childhood and Laura (who Stephen nicknamed Lady Skylark many years ago) confides her fears for her son’s life to Stephen. It seems that Laura’s brother-in-law sees Laura’s son as standing in the way of him inheriting the title.
Stephen steps in to protect Laura and in the process helps find a missing heir. Although this is a compelling book on many levels, I missed the page turning aspect of other Jo Beverley books. This book could best be described as a gentle, beautiful romance, not the compelling page turner that I have come to anticipate from Jo Beverley. I felt that although there was the appearance of several of our favorite Rogues, many of the problems were never dealt with and the danger just faded away. I have come to anticipate page turners from the “Company of Rogues” series, and this one just doesn’t fit with the rollicking books that proceed this one. Although there are rogues in this story, it would be better placed as a stand alone rather than coming with expectations.
That being said, a Jo Beverley book is still better than any other author I’ve read. Her attention to detail in both character development as well as historical accuracy is unparalleled! The characters jump off the page – we love them, we hate them, we curse at them, and we turn the pages as fast as we can read! Stay tuned for the next episode of the Company of Rogues series!
RTBookReviews nominated this book for it’s 2004 Historical Romance of the year and gave it 4.5 stars.
The Romance Reader gives Skylark 4 stars and says: “All in all, Skylark is vintage Beverley: good characters, a well-developed romance, a fine sense of time and place, an acceptable plot premise. In short, a most enjoyable read.”