Not a bad book, but by no means inspiring - would be hard-pressed to recommend

This is the second book I've read by Debra Mullins - the first being Just One Touch, which wasn't my favorite historical romance of all time but an enjoyable read and better than Scandal of the Black Rose.

Convinced that her twin brother, Anthony, was not killed randomly by footpads, Anne Rosewood (20) is determined to discover more about the Black Rose Society - a mysterious club which she is certain is somehow responsible for her brother's murder. Her mission leads her into dangerous areas - a scandalous gathering in Vauxhall Gardens where she pretends to be a prostitute, sleuthing around a tavern in a disreputable part of town, and into the arms of a handsome and dangerous man who also happens to be her intended's cousin.

Roman Devereaux (33) has just resigned his commission and is now seeking employment in the diplomatic corps. He's struggled for 12 years to restore honor and respectability to his family's name - ever since his father ran off with the fiancee of his uncle (the now-deceased Earl of Haverford, father of the current Earl, Marc, who is Anne's intended). Because Rome made a promise to a dying comrade to look after the man's younger brother, he attends a masked gathering in Vauxhall Gardens to determine what type of crowd the young man has fallen in with ... and meets a lovely and sensuous young woman whom he can't get out of mind - and is shocked to later discover is respectable young Miss Anna Rosewood, who is almost certainly to marry into his family.

There wasn't really anything glaringly frustrating or bad about this novel, but although Anna and Rome were interesting characters and had good chemistry (about all they had with each other), there was a certain spark missing in the story and it just felt a little off.

Problems with the hero and heroine's relationship:
~ I didn't like that Anna and Roman go so far in their sexual relationship within the first thirty pages (granted he doesn't know she's not a prostitute, but she could have stopped him; she doesn't even know the man, or that he's a good guy - he could be a rapist!); would have preferred it just stuck to hot and heavy kissing
~ They go on a little excessively throughout the book about how much they want each other, remember "the feel of being in his/her arms," see desire in the other's eyes, etc.
~ They start talking of love far too early for the story, since they hardly know each other (and still don't IMO by the end of the book), but rather just share a mutual physical attraction
~ No matter that we want Anna and Rome to get together, they are being dishonest and disloyal towards Marc in their continued and furthered relationship - basically cheating (until everything becomes above-board at the way end - and is all tied up quite neatly, surprise-surprise, with no hurt feelings)

Problems with the plot: (*includes slight spoiler*)
~ The mystery subplot which is central to the story has a villain who is a complete surprise; we don't get any clues throughout the book that hint to the villain's correct identity (though Mullins does do a good job in throwing us off the path and making us suspect other characters in the book)
~ The problem of figuring out who's in the Society and disbanding it is all resolved quite quickly, easily, and anti-climatically

This book is by no means bad, but it's not all that memorable. With so many great historical romances out there that one can't wait to reread the minute one finishes them, I would recommend reading one of those instead of buying this book or getting it from the library. Some of my favorites with mystery/action subplots include: Irresistible (Banning Sisters Trilogy, Book 2) by Karen Robards; A Notorious Love (Swanlea Spinsters, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries; Someone to Watch Over Me (Bow Street, Book 1) by Lisa Kleypas; The Hostage Bride (Bride Trilogy, Book 1) and The Least Likely Bride (Bride Trilogy, Book 3) by Jane Feather; Lord of Fire (Knight Miscellany, Book 2) by Gaelen Foley; After Midnight by Teresa Medeiros; and Lady Rogue by Suzanne Enoch.