Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Never Romance A Rake by Liz Carlyle
Title: Never Romance A Rake
Author: Liz Carlyle
Blurb: Baron Rothewell lives a dark, shuttered existence by day, and a life of reckless abandon by night. Scarred by a childhood filled with torment and deprivation, Rothewell cares very little anyone or anything. His life on the edge of ruin suits him—until he meets a man who just might be his nemesis. The Comte de Valigny likes to play deeply and dangerously, but Rothewell’s recklessness is undeterred. Until one night when de Valigny wagers something just a little more valuable than gold.
Mademoiselle Marchand is a desperate woman in a strange land, and her pleading eyes seem to swallow Lord Rothewell body and soul—assuming he still has one. Now the baron must play his hand with the utmost care, for at last something meaningful is at stake...
Why: Carlyle is an auto-read for me.
Thoughts: I'm irritated as I write this. First, in my search for blurb and cover pic, I realized that I read out of order here. I had both this one and Never Deceive A Duke on my TBR list--but only one in by TBR pile. Never thought to double check before plucking it from my stack. And shame on me for feeling stupid or irked about it. Reading is fun and I swear I make it more like work.
Then, when organizing my thoughts, I realized I could very well be ruined for reading. Cuz again, while I enjoyed Never Romance A Rake very, very much, it still felt less than satisfying. I fear I'm ruined for good old fashioned romance.
What I liked and didn't like: I liked the beginning best. Because it was dark. Rothewell begins as a menacing, self-serving bastard. With a conscious scarred by childhood abuse and a new regret brought on by illness. In just pages, Carlyle pens a vulnerable bastard we long to see redeemed.
Then she introduces him to the heroine. And just minutes into that scene, we ache. For an emotionally-battered heroine, wagered and lost by her slimy father. But ahhh, into the protective yet dangerous hands of our dark hero.
Hooked in pages. Love, love, love this premise. Always have, always will. Especially when written by an author whose prose stands stands well above the rest.
So I was thrilled to have a book inhand that I didn't want to put down. Carlyle went on to introduce new and interesting characters, each with their own depth and free will. She also invited characters from prior books, of which I loved George Kemble the most. Just adore that man.
The story unfolded beautifully. Up until, in one paragraph, Carlyle planted a flat-out stereotypical seed of villainry. Instantly I thought, oh, so that's how it's going to be, a trusted individual turned villain. I was disappointed I think, because 1) it seemed contrived and, 2) the heroine appeared dumb as a box of rocks in the face of it.
I continued on, as the story really was quite good. Totally centered on their growing relationship and with one, yet-to-be revealed conflict or obstacle.
Then, I stalled out. Flooded by too much internal thought or dialogue, by both hero and heroine. Enough already with the should-I-or-shouldn't-I-love-him/her. It grew tiresome. I loved how Carlyle brought each of them into the here and now; both grow up emotionally right before our eyes. His self-examination in particular is almost stunning. But for every moment of self-truth, Carlyle inadvertantly cluttered the feeling with too much hemming and hawing over their relationship.
For these stretches, I found myself preferring the company of Carlyle's secondary characters over the H/H. And they delivered. Especially Kemble. He featured prominently in the undoing of Carlyle's red herring villain. I was very happy with that turn and pleased with the way Carlyle brought it all to a close.
So, looking back, for purposes of this review, maybe I'm not totally ruined for simple romance. I am however, much less tolerant--and more inclined than ever to ditch--when I encounter elements that try my patience. In this case, the prolonged and unnecessary brow-beating over whether or not to love. That made me impatient in more than one place and I'm both irritated and apologetic about it. Apologetic because I'm starting to wonder if it's me.