Romance novels that aren't very romantic are so frustrating, and this was, unfortunately, one of them. It starts when Montgomery Foxcroft, aka Fox, the hero, pretends to be a highwayman to waylay a coach and rob it for money to help with the upkeep of an orphanage his family has maintained for generations. He doesn't end up with much money, but he does end up with an armful of Lady Miranda Sinclair. Miranda was on her way into exile with some variety of family friends who live in the country when Fox stopped them, and she's more than happy to kiss him. In fact, kissing someone in the dark is the very reason she got sent into exile to begin with. Soon enough, Miranda finds herself forced to go work at the orphanage as a sort of punishment that's supposed to better her, and she rubs up wrong against Fox right away--having no idea that he's the highwayman with the magic lips, of course.
There were abundant problems with this book that placed it squarely outside of my interest, though I forced myself through to the end. (It takes a lot for me to actually give up on a book.) First, I didn't feel that there was any real chemistry between Miranda and Fox, despite how they kept insisting (internally) that they couldn't resist each other. The words were there, but the emotion wasn't. Second, Miranda herself was absolutely insufferable. She's the very definition of a spoiled rich girl. She parades around the orphanage in the finest gowns money can buy and, while Burke tries to show her growing and coming to accept that her way of life isn't the only one or even the best, she constantly relapses to her spoiled state. Even up to the very end, where she's supposed to be gaga over Fox and willing to do anything to be with him, she can't stand up to her parents and instead just silently agrees with them about how shabby Fox's entire lifestyle is. And then she abruptly grows a backbone and everyone lives happily ever after. What?
And finally, the writing isn't really engaging at all. There's so much nothing going on here. And honestly, while a hero who takes care of orphans can be a really sweet idea, reading about someone combing lice out of those orphans' hair isn't romantic at all. I picked this book up because it was a group read for Unapologetic Romance Readers on Goodreads, as a "free" selection for everyone, and found that I'd already purchased it more than a year before--and I'd actually started to read it! But I hadn't continued much past the first chapter before abandoning it. After finishing it this time, I can see why I ditched out the first time. I don't think Burke is an author I'll be picking up again.
1.5 stars out of 5.