by Renee Bernard, historical (2008)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-2422-9
A Rogue's Game is a blah-blah-blah kind of book. The characters talk, do things, get naked... and all I can do is to wonder whether I should be doing something that is more interesting than reading this book.
Eve Reynolds is trapped in an unhappy circumstance. Her late father taught her how to gamble (and win well), and when he died, her uncle took her under his wing. Since then, she helps him lighten the pockets of the genteel folks of the Ton at the tables. Eve was too young to realize what was happening when her uncle began using her, but awareness doesn't do anything but to let her know how little recourse she has. After all, she has no money and no home, so she's completely dependent on her uncle. Her plan, therefore, is to secretly keep aside some of her winnings until she has saved enough to leave her uncle and live her own life.
When the story opens, the grand plan of Uncle Warren is to launch Eve's Season with a bang and have her married to a rich man so that they can both retire into the lap of luxury. Eve is pretending to go along with the plan, hoping for a little bit more money that she can stash away so that she can leave her Uncle... until our hero Julian Clay steps into the picture and decides that he'd like to sleep with her, hence complicating her plans.
This story is a very dull one, I find, because of the combo of very familiar characters and these characters behaving in a familiar pattern. This one is set in Victorian England, but be it Regency, Georgian, or Victorian England, the characters in this book sing and dance in the same old show. He takes a leaf out of the Stephanie Laurens' Hero Handbook, pursuing her while insisting that he's the biggest rake that ever played in the garden, while she will of course give out and be as easy as 1-2-3 while insisting that he doesn't love her. I can only wonder why Eve, a woman badly hurt by a scoundrel who seduced and then dumped her in the past, would happily put out to a guy in what she is convinced is a business transaction where her body is part of the contract. Is this some kind of bizarre attempt to boost her self-esteem? Julian is no prize. He claims that he is tired of his frivolous lifestyle, but yet he needs money so he's pretty much exchanging his stud service to other men's wives in exchange for lodging and entries into parties where he can gamble and win some money for himself. Like Eve, he may claim to do one thing, but what he ends up doing is often a completely different thing.
And yet, despite the presence of two characters who have barely enough brain cells to qualify as functional people, the story is utterly dull. Perhaps this is something I should be happy about, but still, that's like saying that I'm happy because the nail I stepped on wasn't rusty. The characters are silly, but they are a predictable kind of silly. Seriously, if you have read enough historical romances set in London featuring rakes and feisty damsels, you'd most likely be able to predict what these characters would say or do without much effort.
A Rogue's Game is dull rather than irritating, if that's any consolation. Not that it is. Like that creature from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita would say, this one is just another suitcase in another hall.
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