Rogue's Honor
by Brenda Hiatt, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81777-2

Rogue's Honor has everything. A bluestocking, healer, overeducated, common-senseless heroine on a crusade to save the poor and the downtrodden while wanting to escape an unwanted match, a Robin Hood type of hero who robs the rich for the poor even as he solves his noble heritage mystery thingie (you are expecting an untitled hero?), jewel heists... Watch out people, the Giant Kitchen Sink from the sky is crashing down on us all!

The herb-smelling (I'm not talking about marijuana, okay?), book-hogging heroine in question is Lady Pearl Moreston. Her absent-minded scholar daddy, whom she loves the mostest - altogether now, "DaddyNME4va!!!" - doesn't know that the stepmother is whom she loathes the mostest but she feels guilty because hating the stepmother will make Daddy dearest hurt, so oh, she shuts up, et cetera - altogether now "MummiesRSuchBitches! I wanna marry my Daddy!" - where am I? I've lost control of that sentence altogether. Ahem. Let me start again.

Stepmommy arranges her to be compromised by one bumbling, stuttering lord (who seems to adore Pearl, but he's just inept and clueless) but Pearl overhears and puts her foot down. "No way!" she says. She wants to wait until she's twenty-one before she marries. Anyway, when Daddy is out to town, our heroine decides that it's time to play Florence Nightingale of the ghettos. She and her loyal chaperon dress themselves up as maids to "look around and see what life as an untitled fellow is", get hired to work in some house party, and naturally, she bungles it up, loses her chaperon, and finds herself in the company of Luke St Clair, AKA "the Saint of Seven Dials", the Robin Hood figure mentioned earlier.

Naturally, our brainy heroine has no plan B, so she can't tell Luke her address, she doesn't know where to go, and she can't lie, so she comes off like an addle-pated simpleton from the country. And while thinking of her as a "child", Luke gets the hardest erection in his life when he looks at her. Pervert.

Pearl doesn't know that Luke is the thief, wonders if he believes that she's the thief (MENSA won't come calling on Pearl any time soon, really), stays with him and becomes all Enlightened About The Sins of The Rich and the Virtues of the Poor - rich people are rapist, capitalist bastards and poor people are happy hippies who just want to hold hands and sing "Kumbayah" at sunsets. But what do you know, Luke can't be a proper hero until he plans a Grand Plot to steal some Grand Treasure and gets unmasked as some Long Lost Heir to Fabulous Fortunes. What is Ms Hiatt saying again about rich bastard pigs?

If this synopsis is most incoherent to you, that's because the story is packed with so many plot twists and turns and U-turns and dead ends that it is like a maze to untangle the plot skeins. There're even fake ghosts, if the kitchen sink isn't overflowing enough.

But ultimately, the characters are lackluster, which make the plot overdrive even more uninteresting to follow. Pearl is a nitwit who seems to act before she thinks - she wants to be a Crusader for the poor, then chickens out when she realizes that this means she will be ostracized even when she said just two chapters earlier that she'd rather sacrifice her virtue before living life in "the gilded cage" of her world. And - yup - she has lots of worries about sacrificing her virtue though, when the opportunity arises, because she isn't sure that, you know, Luke loves her. And she is sure that he hates her now, because the noble twit she is, she blames herself for making Luke a noble man now, even though trust me, she is overestimating her role in the Nobility Reinstatement of Our Hero... yes, this convoluted paragraph is deliberately overran to reflect the thought train (wreck) of Pearl as the story progresses. Then again, she isn't twenty-one yet. Then again, that's no excuse for running headlong into situations out of one's depths and then acting all petulant and "I want my day-deeee!" when one is in a fix.

Luke is this close to being human. At one point, he wonders if he's doing the right thing, living life with this blind hatred against anyone with money. Maybe life isn't that black or white. Then the author cuts down this man's humanizing by making him a nobleman - wa-hey, does that mean Luke is now a Rich Capitalist Pig? - and making things black and white all over again.

Rogue's Honor could have been interesting. It could have been a tale of what it means to be an outsider falling in love with an insider. It could have been a grand tale of two people of different worlds finding a common ground. But Ms Hiatt panders shamelessly to overused plot conventions, uses one-note shallow philosophies and psychologies to please the too-easily-pleased, and ends up squirting smelly goo all over her own work. Rogue's Honor makes as much sense as a flying pink elephant living on the moon. And it isn't even interesting either, thanks to a plot that runs everywhere but ends up nowhere. File this one under "Wanting to be safe at the expense of its own credibility".

Rating: 52

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