Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7468-9
Historical Romance, 2003
Why is it that romance authors tend to write heroes that are generally enjoyable, smart, and funny but the heroines are often scatterbrained ninnies badly in need of some ginkgo biloba? Annette Blair’s An Unmistakable Rogue is such a book. The plot is nothing new, the hero is okay if nothing too original, but the heroine is really wretched in the brainpower department.
Chastity Somers, who is convent-born (an euphemism in romance novel for “completely devoid of intelligence”), is a virgin widow, at the start of the story decides to go all gung-ho and kidnap her four cousins from the poor house. Scatterbrain heroine + gung-ho plan = oncoming train wreck. Run away, people. Lucky for her, she stumbles upon our hero, Reed Gilbride, who more or less thinks she’s a kidnapper but he can’t really be bothered to care. He has other more important things to do, including seeing to a note he receives telling him that he’s the long-lost heir to the title of the Earl of Barrington.
At the same time, Chastity also receives the note. Her late husband and Reed are actually twins born to the late debauched Barrington, and the know-it-all vicar that attended the twins’ birth separated the babies and told their father that the babies were dead. At his deathbed, the vicar told his sister (Barrington’s mistress) what he did and it is this woman that wrote the note to each of the twin.
Chastity decides to claim the inheritance that comes with the Earl because she wants to open a home for poor kiddies. Lucky for her, the solicitor is a Charles Dickens wannabe and he approves of her plans. But wait, here comes Reed and he wants the properties and the monies too! Oh no, what can a scatterbrained heroine do to stop this disaster? Reed, for silly reasons, think her a nun, and he wonders why on earth does this nun kidnap four children and then huddle together in what is supposed to be his house.
From screaming for no good reason to bungling up anything she tries to do, Chastity, like her namesake, is pure from thought and common sense. She often behaves like a thirteen-year old girl with an insufferable martyr complex and a pain in the behind where I am concerned. Reed is a decent hero, as I’ve said, but his romance with Chastity is quite creepy, especially when the heroine is running around acting like an inept little doll bent on saving the world when she can’t even save herself. The four children, by the way, make me cringe because some of their antics reek of attempts at emotional manipulation from the author. Some of the things the children do… ugh.
An Unmistakable Rogue will find a better reception from readers that like children and girly heroines enough to overlook the formulaic plot and romance. Me, I really have better things to do than to try to tell apart the heroine from the kiddies, an effort that more often than not make my head pound quite painfully.