A RECKLESS DESIRE Isabella Bradford
A Breconridge Brothers Novel
, Book 3
Ballantine Books
ISBN-13:  978-0-345-54816-0
March 2016
Historical Romance

London, England 1775

Lord Rivers Fitzroy, the third son of the Duke of Breconridge, is a frequent visitor backstage at King's Theatre after the actors, actresses and dancers had finished their shows.  His good friend Sir Edward Everett goes with him, and they enjoy the dressing rooms full of beautiful women who might accept their advances.  Talking with Edward and Rivers's old lover, Magdalena di Rossi, leading dancer of the troupe, about one particular actress who was a wretched excuse for an actress, Rivers makes a statement he might live to regret.  He bet given time he could make any woman a capable actress.  Edward spots a servant who helps the dancers dress and makes a bet right there on the spot that Rivers cannot turn her into a capable actress.  Lucia di Rossi is actually a niece of the head of the dance troupe and Magdalena's cousin, but when her uncle despaired of teaching her to dance, she became an unpaid servant, lucky to have a place to sleep.

Lucia never could make her feet dance, so she was reduced to being a servant for the dancers, all of whom are in her di Rossi family, of which her Uncle is the head and leader of the dance troupe.  When she is dragged in by Edward to see if Rivers could teach her to act, she was thrilled.  She knows she can do it, and longs to break away from the theatre where she is treated like a slave.  When Rivers takes over her life and realizes they will have to get away for the month to teach her, she knows leaving the troupe means if she doesn't become a good actress, she will have nowhere to call home again.

Rivers decides his home next to the family estate is a good place to teach Lucia.  When he gives her a section from Hamlet to memorize on their way to the estate, he is astounded by her memory and ability to breathe life into the role.  Not only is Lucia talented, but as the days go by he is unwillingly attracted to her.  But Lucia knows she could only be his mistress if she lets him have his way, and nothing good could come of their relationship if she gives in to him.  Rivers wants to rent a theater at the end of the month and give a benefit show with Lucia in a professional setting, and gladly take Edward's bet from him.  But where will his love for Lucia take them?

Isabella Bradford introduces us to another son of the Duke of Breconridge; Rivers is the third son and need not worry about becoming Duke, or providing an heir; but that is becoming increasingly troublesome, as his two older brothers have only birthed girls so far.  Rivers's father has told him it is possible he will need to step up and get married to an approved woman and present a male heir.  Lucia's mother died at a young age, and her father drank himself to death, and as the family servant she has not much future to look forward to, but the idea of becoming a famous actress is enticing; she knows she has the ability to learn what she needs.  Told from Rivers's and Lucia's points of view, Rivers knows about society, but Lucia is like an innocent child and can't conceive of what would happen if her acting abilities make her famous.

Secondary characters are mostly in the background.  Sir Edward forgets about the bet as soon as it is made.  Rivers's mother and sisters-in-law meet Lucia and, despite the difference in their stations in life, look upon her favorably.  Only the Duke cannot fathom Rivers's thinking of making a forever match with a servant girl.

A RECKLESS DESIRE is fun and carefree as Lucia proves herself to be an apt student with a remarkable memory and a love of Shakespeare, especially Hamlet.  Rivers goes down a different road with a woman who interests him and whom he enjoys being with.  Will there be any way Rivers's father the Duke could accept an actress? Will Rivers win his bet, and will Lucia wow society with her acting skills?  Give A RECKLESS DESIRE a chance this month; you can't go wrong.

Carolyn Crisher