Bedding The Baron
by Deborah Raleigh, historical (2008)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-8044-2

Having enjoyed the author's previous books, I was most eager to get my hands on Deborah Raleigh's Bedding The Baron. Alas, when I finally am able to read it, I am most dismayed to report that I find this book as boring as having to sit in a windowless empty room and watching the paint on the wall dry.

The idea isn't bad at all. This is the first book in a planned trilogy revolving around what could only be called a School for Bastards, as opposed to Sabrina Jeffries' School For Heiresses series. The late Mr Dunnington ran an academy of sorts for the various illegitimate sons of the Ton. From all accounts, he's these boys' personal Mark Thackeray. Indeed, at the funeral, the first graduating class comprising our hero Fredrick Smith and his two friends are all but doing a three-part rendition of To Sir, With Love... until they learn that Mr Dunnington had been blackmailing their fathers on the sly for a shockingly huge amount of money.

Fredrick is far from angry when he learns of this, but he is nonetheless intrigued enough to want to learn of the reason why his father, who by his account acknowledges him as his son but clearly doesn't want him around to bother him and his "official" family, would cave in to Mr Dunnington's blackmail demands. Hence, he decides to leave London to head over to the old man's Oak Manor. On the way, he's forced by an unexpected thunderstorm to seek shelter at our heroine Portia Walker's inn only to be intrigued by the beauty and the prickly attitude of the owner of the Queen's Arms. Portia and Fredrick will soon learn that the skeletons in the closets of their respective families bind them closer than they could ever imagine.

I really want to like Fredrick because he's initially portrayed as this brilliant inventor who believes in true love. Alas, the moment he meets Portia and opens his mouth, he transforms into a person that reminds me of a drunk and sleazy fratboy who can't stop making "I know you find me hot and I know you want me" type of sexual innuendos to the heroine. I suspect that Ms Raleigh is trying to get Fredrick to turn on his charm but what is supposed to be a suave type of wit comes off like a tedious and unoriginal brand of egocentric come-on to me. Fredrick is a most unappealing hero as a result. His self-justifications on wanting to get into Portia's pants are all over the place. He claims that he wants to show her that not all men are jerks and assholes like she believes, but at the same time he's coming on to her and wanting to sleep with her without making any promises of the future. In other words, he's like that cocky fratman who is convinced that his supposedly amazing skills in bed are all a woman needs to get her groove back. Fredrick is really a most sleazy hero.

Portia is a less original but just as tedious character as she's a twit who is convinced that all men are bastards and thus behaves like a complete ass towards Fredrick even as she shivers inside because she's so-ooo-oo hot for Fredrick's world-saving amazing touch. As much as Fredrick comes off as a smarmy fratboy, she comes off just as annoyingly as a hypocritical shrew.

Their relationship therefore is a tedious and dull one as Fredrick is relentless in his pursuit of Portia while making all kinds of self-serving "I want to show her that all men aren't bastards" justification even as she acts like a shrill twit that is at the same time total putty in his hands. Far from being as fun to follow as the relationship of the couples in the author's previous books, this one is just loud, juvenile, and ultimately pointless.

The subplots about the secrets held by their respective families provide some momentary diversion from the insipid antics of the main characters, but not enough to make me wish that Fredrick and Portia will either grow up and get lost. But even so, there is a tempest in the teacup feel to the story. After all that whining Fredrick does about his supposedly cold and distant father, I learn the moment he steps foot in Oak Manor that the staff loves him and everyone is convinced that the old man really loves Fredrick but is just too much of a silly fool to admit it. Ms Raleigh holds fast to the rule in the formula where, just as how an adopted child will always love her biological parents more than her adopted parents who will always come off wanting in some way, the bastard son is always more well-loved by all than the acknowledged son of his father. And really, why is Fredrick whining when everyone but the bad guys turns out to love him to pieces? What a silly self-absorbed fool.

A most disappointing read, Bedding The Baron loses me from the moment the hero opens his mouth to speak to the heroine and never stops annoying me right until the last page. The next book has better be more readable than this.

Rating: 53

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