3.5 starsA most entertaining Regency romance, complete with a missing brother, spies, a trip to dangerous France, footpads, thugs, dandies, and, of course, the feisty heroine about to marry for duty and position to a dreadful "gentlemen", and the rake hero so scarred by his father's foolish behavior that he's vowed never to marry!Dashing is Miss Lucia Dashing. Dangerous is Alexander (Alex) Scarston, the Earl of Selbourne. Alex's brother, Winterbourne, is married to Lucia's sister, Francesca. The brothers' share a mother, but each has a different father, so each brother is the eldest son of his family name - meaning, a title and lands. Alex has been attracted to Lucia since his brother's betrothal and marriage to her sister, Francesca, but Lucia was only a girl of 14 then. Fast forward six years... Alex's cover as an English spy in France is blown, and he must return to England to save not only his own neck, but his contacts and his network. Alex has never liked the "ton" or all the events of a Season; he sees no reason to like it now. He wants an occupation - something to do. He's used to danger, to intrigue, to puzzles, to life-and-death... not all of these useless balls and even more useless politicians. In trying to avoid all the marriage-minded mamas, Alex slips out of a ball and into the gardens, only to discover that Lucia's useless, full-of-himself fiancee is drunk and trying to have his wedding night a bit early. He does the only thing he can do; he "saves" Lucia and whisks her home in his carriage.Instant chemistry - sizzling! The two realize that their attraction hasn't faded. Now that Lucia's 20 and fully a woman, Alex realizes that he's more attracted to her than ever. Lucia, only marrying her fiancee to make a beneficial political alliance for her father's ambitions, discovers that Alex brings up feelings in her that she never knew existed. She thought that a love-match like her sister had made was out of the question for her. Now she starts to wonder... except Alex is such a rake, that her brother and father would never let her near him if Alex weren't her brother-in-law.The two are thrown together with a common cause when Lucia discovers that her twin brother, John, is missing. John was supposed to set sail for Greece two months ago, about the time that Alex returned to England. John withdrew 200 pounds, but he's not been seen or heard from since, and he's not withdrawn any more money in that time. Lucia's father consulted his son-in-law (Winterbourne), who brought in Alex to assist with locating John. Lucia and John are as close as twins can be, and Lucia insists on joining the search. She knows John's friends, his routines, and his mind. Alex isn't thrilled about her accompanying him on his search. He's the typical chauvinistic British peer - over-confident in his own abilities and too easy to overlook the value that a woman might have. Why makes no sense, exactly, since he's dealt with many women in his spy network. But it seems where a young, English lady like Lucia is concerned, Alex puts her in the same category as the "ton" - she's only good for social events, marriage, mistressing, and the like.Lucia quickly shows Alex that she's a valuable partner - in words and deeds. She finds a clue in a hidden pocket in one of her brother's waistcoats that tells Alex, beyond a doubt, that John must have been his replacement in France. Lucia and Alex end up in France "accidentally"... quite an amusing set of circumstances: Lucia sneaks into Alex's house late at night to give him the clue. Alex almost bashes her over the head, and she discovers he has a guest - Camilla, a French contact. Camilla is obviously jealous of Lucia and intimates that she and Alex were once more than contacts and friends. Lucia's jealousy, curiosity, and desire flame into her offering herself to Alex, who takes her offer at face value. The two spend a rollicking, lusty night together where, for once, the description doesn't have the hero manfully withholding his own pleasure for hours and hours! Instead, the description carries enough steam to be enticing, but turns sweet when it reveals that Alex "surrenders" himself in the love-making as he never has allowed himself to do before. Bingo! We knew, as readers, that this match was meant to be. Now, if the hero and heroine can only get away from the nasty French thugs who capture them (an old enemy of Alex's) who whisk them away to France and certain death. For Lucia, before death is the very real possibility of gang rape and misuse. But fear not!Now that they're conveniently in France, Lucia and Alex (and one of his English cam padres) must now locate John. As usual, Alex won't listen to Lucia... and everyone ends up in a tangled mess playing "who is the betrayer?" until the person we KNEW was the betrayer (because Lucia figured it out already) is revealed.But can they get the wounded John out of France alive? Will Alex and Lucia make it out alive? And if they do, will John or Lucia's father murder Alex for having taken Lucia's virginity and not marrying her? Would Lucia accept Alex even if he asked? Will Lucia return to her fiancee and a life of drudge, as Alex commands her to do?Fun book - the plot is predictable in a witty, light-hearted way. The irritations are that the men so devalue Lucia's contributions that you want to scream right along with her.