Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0016-7
Historical Romance, 2008
A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure tells the story of Emma Jensen. No, she’s not the romance author, she is the daughter of a debauched gentleman who is currently pretending to be a widow in order to win as much money from the genteel folks in London before the Season begins. You see, she wants to start a new life, a stable and more predictable one compared to the hedonistic lifestyle led by her father, and if she has to use the only skill she has at her disposal to do so, so be it. She is close to getting enough to achieve her goal… until our hero the Duke of Somerhart (“Hart”) shows up and distracts her. As she tries hard not to succumb to a man she believes to be just like her father, he of course pursues her. Things get complicated when her past finally catches up with her.
I don’t have many problems with the characters or the plot. The plot is predictable, but the characters have a few tweaks here and there to make them a little different from the usual stereotypical rakes and feisty heroines out there. Emma’s stubbornness to accept that Hart may be a good husband material can get old because she persists in being that way for so long, but she is well-restrained and capable of stringing two thoughts together unlike some heroines in her shoes that I can think of. I also appreciate how these characters willingly communicate with each other once they get past their initial first impressions of each other.
However, as much as I want to give this book a favorable review, I must admit that I find it a pretty easy book to put down. A big reason for this is Ms Dahl’s tendency to repeat details to the point that the story seems circular and repetitive when in fact the story is actually going somewhere. Emma’s feelings about her father, for example, are repeated often, without anything new that is said with each repetition, in the first few chapters of this story. Ms Dahl could have solved this problem by adding some new information each time the same subject matter comes up in the story. Perhaps the problem here stems from how Ms Dahl reveals too many details too early to the reader. Details about Emma’s life with her father, for example, could have been revealed slowly so that each time Emma thinks back about her father, Ms Dahl could have added a new nugget of information for the reader. That way, Emma’s introspection won’t come off as so repetitive.
The story isn’t static and there is a plot progression taking place, but the author’s writing style gives me the impression that the story is more like a train ride that often takes annoying detours where it proceeds to go round in circles before resuming its journey. A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure isn’t a bad book, it’s just a book where the author’s technique doesn’t work its magic too well on me.