With This Ring

With This Ring - Amanda Quick This quirky book provided a bit of a mystery along with a fun confection of a "romance". The "Mad Monk" of Monkcrest is an old nickname for men of the title of Earl of Monkcrest, because often the men are considered odd or eccentric... of just plain mad.This Mad Monk is none other than Leo, a man who's raised 2 grown sons (19 and 17 respectively) mostly on his own. The sons are now an a Grand Tour of the Continent with their tutor, and Leo finds himself alone. On a stormy night, as he's pondering his aloneness and the question of "horrid" novels with his faithful hound, Elf, a carriage pulls up to the front of his house! And in it is a woman with her maid! Demanding to see him, the Earl of Monkcrest!Leo is quite annoyed and quite amused. And he thinks that perhaps this woman might help him find something interesting about life again. The woman is Beatrice Poole, a widow, whose uncle recently died. Beatrice thinks his death has to do with his purchase of the so-called Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite, a legendary myth that long ago, a craftsman created a statue of Aphrodite, hid a great treasure inside, and created a unique locking mechanism requiring two rings as the key. Leo is a noted antiquities, and he's known not only for his "finds", but for debunking the myths and legends and fakes. Beatrice is looking for information from Leo - information that she can use to find the rings. Because you see, her uncle promised to sponsor her very pretty and promising niece, Arabella, for a Season in London. The Season is well underway, and upon their uncle's death, the girls and their aunt discovered that all their uncle's funds were tied up in the purchase of the Forbidden Rings. Beatrice wants to find the rings, sell them, recover the money, and provide Arabella the money she needs. It seems that Arabella has caught the attention of Lord Hazelthorpe's heir, Pearce Brunby, and the affection is mutual; but should his family discover that Arabella has no dowry, the match would be off in a second, and Arabella's chances of a good marriage are nill.Leo is fascinated by this forward woman, Beatrice Poole. But that's not all to the story, because Uncle Reggie, Lord Glassonby was a well-known customer at a brothel called "The House of the Rod" - no, not a naughty epithet, a place where the customers come for some "discipline". Uncle Reggie died there, after a "session" with the proprietress, Madam Virtue. And he'd taken a tonic from a Dr. Cox, called "The Elixir of Manly Vigor" before the "session". Seems he was a regular customer.While Leo is fascinated by the story and Beatrice's persistence, he's convinced the rings are naught but legend. But he's drawn to Beatrice - enough so that he asks his servant to tell her that the bridge to the main road is out, under water from the storm. Leo wants to keep Beatrice at his home long enough for him to go with her to London and discover the truth about Uncle Reggie's death and these so-called Forbidden Rings. He doesn't think that Beatrice should venture into this adventure without a man by her side; and while it might sound very chauvinistic, in her heart, Beatrice agrees.The problem is that both Leo and Beatrice were married before. And both marriages have their own myth: Leo married a perfect angel who died young; Beatrice married the love of her life and had a union of perfect harmony of the physical and metaphysical. Uh, yeah... they both have secrets. And they're both attracted to one another. The next day, they're wrapped in each others arms, locked in a kiss.So begins the adventures of Leo and Beatrice and The Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite.------------------Leo is all man and very much a man of his time. But he respects Beatrice's intellect - she sees through many of the "myths" around him, using logic to discern the truth - and he respects her spunk and determination. She interests him and excites him. She causes Leo to move out of his typical, bored, sheltered self and do something. And while what he's doing is within his circle of expertise and among his usual contacts, Leo's good heart and quick wit are necessary to keep them both alive.Beatrice might sound like the typical romance heroine - pretty, spunky, and more outspoken than most women of her day. But I like that these traits fit her character - who she's been forced to become to support herself after being widowed. She shows her softer side, after a time, with Leo.And their affair - just enough heat and steam and possessiveness and plenty of surprises. But it feels "right" for both of them, even when it's in the weirdest of places.This is the 1st book of a series, and I eagerly anticipated that Leo and Beatrice would be back for more in book 2. They make a great detective team. But alas, book 2 seems to be about completely different characters. I'm hoping that these two make at least a cameo, though.