Leander Mayfield was never supposed to be a part of the ton. Raised on a small farm in America, Leander spent most of his life fighting off one illness after another, being cared for by his two elder brothers. But a tragic twist of Fate leaves his brothers lost at sea and Leander promoted to the rank of Earl. London society is nothing like the world he knows and Leander realizes he must seem naive. Yet he’s also a novelty and he soon finds himself invited to numerous balls and events.
Julien, Earl of Blackstone, has grown up in high society. He’s tolerated, if not liked, and his preference for men is well known. But dark rumors surround the disappearance of his former lover, so Julien tends to avoid the gossips and sidelong glances that come with mingling among the ton. When his aunt forces to him to attend a ball, his path crosses with Leander and the two begin a slow courtship. But Fate isn’t done with Leander and a dangerous enemy may destroy him and Julien before love has a chance to bloom.
I enjoyed The Desire for Dearborne a great deal because it knows exactly what kind of book it is and what experience it wants to provide readers and then does just that. When I read a Regency-style romance, there are certain things I want — cutting societal commentary, a strong romance, and a campy villain. The Desire for Dearborne had all of that and more.
I felt like I knew the characters from page one and, while the set up is contrived, it works given the nature of the book. Honestly, I expect the plots of Regency novels to feel somewhat contrived, so it’s an area that doesn’t bother me. Leander and Julien are well suited to one another and they shine as a couple. Their individual scenes are still intriguing, but they work best when together. Leander never feels so naive that he’s being taken advantage of and he makes a strong foil for Julien. There is a fairly decent cast of secondary characters and they round out the story and prevent it from becoming too dark.
The ending is a bit bonkers, even for a Regency. I’m not sure the “shocker” (which is a spoiler) was all that necessary. It seems like a set up to another book, but I wasn’t thrilled with how things played out. It just felt a bit too easy given everything else we’d been building towards.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Desire for Dearborne and aside from a somewhat disappointing last quarter, the book was engaging and entertaining. The main characters make an excellent couple and the romance was felt developed and well paced. If you’re a fan of Regency novels, then I think you’ll find plenty to like here.