All Men Are Rogues
by Sari Robins, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-050354-8

Sari Robins manages to improve on her derivative Avon debut, but All Men Are Rogues never lets me forget that the characters are just that - characters. The story is rife with secrets, but the author fails to bring her characters to life to fully engage my interests.

Lord Justin Barclay, also affiliated with the Foreign Office like apparently every other aristocratic male under the age of 30 in England, is charged with a mission: to learn the secrets of Evelyn Amherst, whose father died a traitor to the Crown. How easy for him that Evelyn is in London on a mission of her own (hint: it's all about Daddy) and her "coming out" allows him to escort her around town. Naturally, she falls for him, and then he gets torn up because he's, you know, using her and all. What to do, what to do?

Let me just start by saying I have no idea what the author is thinking by making Justin's mother such a psychotic bitch. What does Ms Robins hope to accomplish? The Psychotic Bitch Future Mother-In-Law aside, the story is filled with stereotypical characterization and plot developments. Of course Evelyn is one of those "noble misunderstood" types - she is so virtuous that she crosses the line from optimism to gullibility. Of course Justin must betray her and then work on getting her back. Even so, the reunion doesn't work because the author's way with description is often too flat to be of use. She tells me too much but doesn't show me enough. Sometimes, a simple statement saying that Justin feels guilty for using Evelyn isn't enough. Show me, please. Then there are Evelyn's stereotypical Turkish servants (one maid, one bodyguard). Evelyn defends her servants from Justin's Evil Momma's prejudice by saying that not all dark-skinned people make lousy servants. I wonder whether I am supposed to be touched that Evelyn is defending the rights of subservient Turks everywhere to be servants to English ninnies.

The plot machinations of the author are also pretty transparent. Lo, when all seems doomed for Justin and Evelyn (ie she's close to coming to her senses and dumping that lying no-good stereotype's ass), Justin collapses onto his bed, babbling all his Sad, Sad Life Stories, and Evelyn, the noble beacon of misunderstood purity that she is, is immediately putty in his hands once again. Hmm, I wonder whether I can pull this trick off on hubby the next time I don't want to do my share of the housework for one week.

There is very little that is fresh or original here. Heck, sometimes I'm not even sure there is a "Sari Robins" voice in this book. All Men Are Rogues seem to be written from a template guidebook, with characters and events in the story rarely deviating from the unwritten formula every other Regency era romance of this ilk seems to follow. I can only hope the author will work on her style in her next book. All Men Are Rogues is too much like everything else out there for its own good.

Rating: 65

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