One Wild Night
by Barbara Dawson Smith, historical (2003)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-98229-1
One Wild Night is such a lifelessly dull paint-by-numbers romance novel that reading it makes watching paint dry on a wall positively rivetting in comparison. Upon closer examination, most of the paint-by-number elements in this story don't really go together in a way that makes sense. Ergo, one is more likely to find the sight of paint slowly drying on a wall more illuminating as well.
The heroine Charlotte Quinton is sort of the villainess in a previous book Romancing The Rogue. Here, it's not as if she's undergone any epiphany or anything - the author just rewrites Charlotte just like that into a moo-moo dingbat that will do anything - anything! - for Granny and Granny and Granny (all three that call themselves the Rosebuds). As one would expect, doing it all for one Granny is bad enough, but Charlotte here is doing the annoying doormat flattest ever impersonation three times over in this book. Ugh. The hero Brand Villiers is the rake of all rakes but poor him, his life of endless wealth and minimum responsibility bores him silly even as he laments the hypocrasy of the righteous world around him! Why can't everyone whore and gamble and drink like he? It is Brand that discovered Charlotte being an evil Other Debutante in the previous book, and now he doesn't believe that Charlotte is now reformed. Hey, neither do I, but hey, whatever. Ironically, even as he laments about the hypocritical self-righteousness of the world - or so he would like to say - he doesn't hesitate to condemn Charlotte as evil liar incarnate forever even when everyone else can see that Ms Smith has kidnapped the real Charlotte and transplanted a fake doormat alien in Charlotte's place.
After Charlotte has come crashing into his place in the now famous initiation ritual to the Sorority of Regency Romance Barbies, Brand and Charlotte decide to pretend to be engaged so that they can investigate a series of murder. Which makes sense, come to think of it - won't the bad guy be confused when two of its intended victims suddenly get together just like that? Along the way, Brand tries to warn Charlotte that her suitor is not too virtuous like she believes him to be, and of course Charlotte doesn't believe him. And naturally, she's wrong. Heaven forbid a heroine to do something right on her own! Meanwhile, the Rosebuds decide to matchmake Charlotte with Brand. It makes a lot of sense to matchmake your darling granddaughter with the man that caught her doing bad things and now hates her forever. Only in romance novels, I tell you.
Other fun overused plot devices also include Charlotte having a crush on Brand like, since forever and sex without a care for consequences thing. The relationship is dull because the author pretty much sets up her characters to fit a one-word description ("rake", "virtuous", "misunderstood") and then pretty much adds in all the tried-and-true plot devices, shake, stir, yawn, and Fed-Ex the finished stuff to the editor. The result is a joyless mechanical romance story that makes inspires me to put it down and do something more fun, like painting the house.
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