Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1885-9
Historical Romance, 2002
First off, I don’t think it is nice of artist Alan Ayers to stick a rehashed artwork that he did for Amanda Quick’s Mistress on Victoria Malvey’s Chasing a Rogue. Okay, so the carriage here looks like a more expensive upgrade from the one on Ms Quick’s cover, but really, even the red colored font and the white lace motive on the background? Tacky, really tacky. And Sonnet is doing Ms Malvey any favors if they think doddering octogenarians will mistake the author for Amanda Quick. We may be romance readers, but we can also spell, thanks very much.
Anyway, the story. Eh. It’s a fun romp, but it is just too bad that the author’s idea of a seduction and flirtation game is a collection of familiar tried-and-true dingbat plot devices mixed in a pot and served cold. The story uses a very irritating plot contrivance to let the heroine sing the La Martyr Blues (Drive Him Away for His Own Good) that seals its doom as far as I’m concerned. This story could have been fun if the author has varied her usual repertoire.
Harriet Nash is a pretty fun heroine. She comes with the usual doormat traits (the born to make you happy thing), but she loves life in town and she just wants to stay here, have fun, live life, and yes, have sex. Okay, so there will be readers who will be gunning for her now, as we all know that true Regency-era heroines don’t have libido and don’t have sex unless insolvent daddies are involved, but the hero’s mommy here is insolvent, as is the hero. Do that count?
Harriet wants only one man to marry her – Steven Morris, the Earl of Heath. Steven is a womanizer, a drunk, and a gambler, by all means a perfect catch of a husband. After all, the characters in A Merry Chase, which this story is loosely related to, are either bluestockings and rakes, and they are now so happy. I do wonder what the heck is this woman thinking to aim for a rake as husband material, when she knows full well what a male slut he is. Affair, yes, but marriage? Maybe Victoria Malvey has read Stephanie Laurens one too many times, because Ms Malvey, without irony, frowns on a forward, slutty female here while telling me non-stop that reformed rakes are just the best ever.
And to win Steve, she will pretend to help him find a wife while underhandedly learning about his ways so that she can seduce him into marrying her. Harriet’s behavior often crosses the line into stalker territory, if you ask me, but hey, this is a woman who wants to marry a rake. What else can I expect?
Harriet learns fast, and soon she is sucking on celery stalks and licking on spoons to drive Steve hot and crazy. She lets him do some PG-13, sometimes borderline R-rated access-all-area foreplay, rocking the carriage while her more outgoing Aunt Agatha and a society matron play keep watch. I am not kidding. This is one London that has gone mad, throwing their innocent bluestockings to rakes because we know uxoria comes better this way.
But when she realizes that Steve needs a heiress, and this is after Steve is torn about marrying her and giving her a downgraded life of genteel poverty (and this is all after the love scene, naturally), she overhears him and oh, now she must pretend to have used him and now she must send him away to some slutty heiress for his own good!
Then there’s Steve’s mother, a ridiculously stupid woman who lets everybody takes advantage of her. She pays for everything, which is why Steve is bankrupt in the first place. People, this is what happens to all those stripping-for-dead-Daddy-and-House Regency heroines once their husbands die. There’s also a crazy guy to do the obligatory “I will shoot her, after I tell you all about my plot, that is!” thing, and that’s it. The end.
Maybe there is a fun romp in Chasing a Rogue – the humor makes me laugh at places and there is a charming bouncy vibrancy to both Steve and Harriet that is engaging – but there’s also rather too much silliness and unintentional whacked-job nonsense to sabotage anything good about it.