Jared Danenmount, Duke of Morland, vowed at a young age to avenge his father’s death. He believes Cassandra’s father, Charles Deville, is responsible and has followed him from England to Paris, Tahiti and finally has tracked him down in Hawaii. Once there, he meets Cassie, but her appearance and manner would never lead him to believe she is the daughter of the French aristocrat he has come to kill.
Cassandra is torn between the freethinking, liberal ways of the Islanders around her and the stern, overbearing discipline of her housekeeper/nanny, Clara. Having a willful and spirited nature, she naturally rebels against Clara and adopts the topless attire of the natives, but has not as yet adopted their penchant for taking their pleasure when the whim strikes, mainly because she had never found anyone she would like to share her passion with. However, that all changes when she meets a dark, mysterious stranger on a deserted stretch of beach. She knew he could make her his without much effort, but he mistook her for a child. When she learns his identity and that Jared plans to destroy her father, she will do anything to stop him – including offering herself to him in exchange.
Cassie and Jared begin the long journey from Hawaii to England to search for her father. On the voyage, Cassie tries futilely to deny her attraction to Jared. She feels as though giving in to her desires will be like betraying her father since Jared has not tried to hide the fact that he plans on killing Charles Deville as soon as he finds him. Likewise Jared is also amazed that he could lust after the daughter of the man he has hated for so long, but he tells himself that once he has had her, the feeling will fade. However, (no surprise here) their feelings for each other only grow after they give in to their pent up desires. But what will happen when they reach their destination and find Cassie’s father?
Dark Rider is a change from the normal regency setting, as the majority of the book takes place on the sea and a portion of it takes place in “uncivilized” Hawaii, which Ms. Johansen does an excellent job of portraying as a tropical paradise. I truly enjoyed the supporting characters, mainly consisting of Jared’s uncle Bernard and Charles’ mistress Lani, just as much, if not more so, than Jared and Cassie themselves. Bernard was full of wry humor and Lani’s outlook on life as a Polynesian was refreshing. Their love story would have made an excellent novel all of its own and my only disappointment in Dark Rider was that we weren’t shown more of it.
Cassie’s devotion to her father is laudable, but also questionable. Since her father showed more attention to his art then to his daughter and employed a cruel, abusive woman to care for her, he did not seem worthy of such dedication. Otherwise, Cassie is intelligent, courageous and very likeable as the heroine. Jared also seems to have an over zealous devotion to his father to spend most of his young adulthood seeking vengeance for his death. However, he proves himself to be just and fair and does not punish Cassie for the sins of her father.
I found Dark Rider to be a very entertaining and well worth the reading time.