Frannie Darling was once a child of London’s roughest streets, surrounded by petty thieves, pickpockets, and worse. But though she survived this harsh upbringing to become a woman of incomparable beauty, Frannie wants nothing to do with the men who lust for her, the rogues who frequent the gaming hall where she works. She can take care of herself and feels perfectly safe on her own—safe, that is, until he strides into her world, and once again it becomes a very dangerous place indeed.
To bed her but not wed her. That’s what Sterling Mabry, the eighth Duke of Greystone, wants. But Frannie abhors arrogant aristocrats interested only in their own pleasure. So why then does the thought of an illicit tryst with the devilish duke leave her trembling with desire? Her willing body begs for release… and a wicked, wonderful surrender.
With the third installment of Scoundrels of St James, we have Frannie Darling, one of Feagan’s children and a book keeper for Jack at his gentlemen’s club, Dodgers. Frannie is about the the gentleness and kindest soul you’ll ever meet. At twelve, she was tricked and sold to a bordello that specializes in virgins by Bob Sykes, whom she scorned and refused to be his girl. ON that night, her innocence was stolen and she was brutally raped – soon afterwards, Luke kills the man for harming her. Ever since that fateful night, Luke, jack, Jim, and Bill look to protect Frannie, vowing to go to their grave before any harm ever touches her again.
While she works at Dodgers, Frannie’s dream is to open an orphanage for children, seeking to help the children of the rookeries. At night she goes about the shadows, trying to find boys who’s souls are not yet lost, ones that she can help, reform, and eventually place in good homes. Frannie meets Sterling, Duke of Greystone and Catherine’s brother at Catherine’s wedding to Luke. He is taken with her and asks her to be his lover. Frannie doesn’t give him an answer, but instead lists his pocket watch – at that time, it isn’t obvious that she just didn’t take his watch, she’ll eventually take his heart. Frannie has no experience with flirtation between a man or a woman, she has remained very much an innocent since that tramatic night years ago, so Sterling decides to take things slow, wooing her slowly to win her over to agreeing to his offer. As Sterling seeks Frannie out, he gets paid numerous visits by Luke, jack, and Jim, threatening him, telling him he better not hurt her or he will have to deal with them.
While wooing Frannie, Sterling gets a taste of what it’s like for the children of the rookeries by helping her with two boys. One of the boys, Peter, takes a liking to Sterling, so much so that Sterling paints a dragon tattoo on his back to match his, officially initiating him into the order of the dragon, something Sterling makes up just for the sake of amusing the child.
Frannie and Sterling knows nothing more than a tryst can come from them being together, but that doesn’t stop them from falling in love with one another. Eventually they part ways as they know needs to be, Sterling explaining that he wouldn’t make a good husband and finally admits to his failings, something he keeps secret and battles with throughout the book, that he is going blind. Being the ever long, sweet person that she is, she doesn’t care, she loves and accepts Sterling as his he is, which leads to him asking her to marry him.
I really loved both these characters. Frannie was very endearing, probably more so than any other female character I’ve ever read. She is truly admirable how she learned to overcome her tragic past without being overcome by hatred or bitterness. I believe she truly is like a butterfly, which Luke described her as. To me, I wouldn’t really lump Sterling in with the ‘scoundrel category’ as he never struck me as one from the first page. He is just a normal man who happens to be a Duke and is suffering from what I would describe as tunnel vision. he can only see what is right in from of him – up close or afar – but anything that is at his side, he cannot. At night among the shadows even makes his vision more limited. Eventually he will go blind, but no one knows when that will happen – that is truly why he takes an over long tour around the world as he wanted to see and experience everything before it’s too late, before his vision is entirely gone. I loved how tender and precious he was with Frannie, ever so patient, never taking more than she is willing to give.
One thing that made me smile at the end, is when it is reveled who her real parents were. I really loved that Lorraine included that bit. Another favorite of mine that I’ve come to love is the journal entries at the end, which are like epilogues. They seem so personal, heart warming, and touching how Lorraine writes them.
At least in the end, the devil got his due, by dancing on the gallows, getting punished eternally for all his horrible wrong doings.