Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237181-2
Historical Romance, 2015
In a way, I don’t envy Lisa Kleypas. Somehow, I don’t know how, but I suspect it has to do with that Derek Craven fellow, she has amassed a legion of fans that would not accept her writing anything else other than historical romances. I’ve seen how her contemporary and paranormal romances were greeted with hisses because they weren’t about women in hoop skirts throwing up those skirts for inebriated rakes with Mommy issues, and now that she is back in the cage, so to speak, the news was greeted with a reaction akin to the Pope’s announcement that Jesus would be resurrected this Sunday; all are welcome to witness it, buffet lunch and a meet-and-greet with Colin Firth would be provided. Of course, these same readers then have to grit their teeth when this book isn’t exactly amazing, and insist that, oh well, a book by this author is still miles better than any other author, so there! It’s quite funny, really, but I don’t envy the pressure the author must be facing.
And Cold-Hearted Rake is very safe. Well, like most of the author’s books, it is well-crafted, readable, but at the same time, it is so closely adherent to the tropes and mopes of the genre that there are hardly any surprises here. This may be great news for some readers, but for me, who read way too many books for my own good, I find myself wishing for a little bit more oomph.
The title is somewhat accurate, I guess, although I’d personally peg Devon Ravenel – squint a bit, and readers who still can’t get over Derek Craven even after all these freaking years may imagine that the spelling of those two names are similar so hey, their birthdays have arrived – as a big boo-boo of a doo-doo. He’s a rake, with all the usual issues that serve as his excuse to say mean and nasty things to the heroine. He has inherited an earldom after a despised cousin dies, so he’d like everyone to know that he’s now the most unlucky fellow ever. He now has responsibilities, so oh, boo-hoo, cry me a freaking river. He says some nasty things about tossing the widow and the three brats out (the late Earl’s sisters), the widow – our heroine Kathleen – overhears him, and treats him coldly.
This vexes him, because he doesn’t understand why she would be mad at him when other women in his life would throw up their skirts and scream for him to ravish him. Kathleen is annoyed too, but he is so hot, so ooh. He oohs back, she oohs in response, they act like kids in the playground, and then like horny teens playing doctor, repeat and rinse. That’s the “feisty widow and the asshole (who’s tortured by a sad past so it’s okay that he’s being a big mean crybaby)” romance. The author knows that her hero is an ass, so she predictably has a passel of secondary characters lecture the hero – and sometimes the heroine – each time these characters act like brats. The three actual brats giggle and try to act cute in predictable ways at predictable moments. Whenever the hero is an ass, the author quickly follows the moment with a reminder that he has a sad past or she has the heroine think about how hot he is – hot and tortured are apparently the most significant criteria when it comes to picking a husband.
Oh, and Kathleen has a secret! Whatever. I have a secret too, so does my dog, my neighbor, the postman, and the cat up the tree.
Reading this book just makes me feel old. I see Devon running around yapping like a constipated mastiff, and I find myself thinking why we can’t just clobber him or something so that he can just stop.with his silly non-stop complaining and pouting and scowling. Yes, yes, his parents suck, but come on, whose parents are perfect anyway? And unlike most of us, this boo-boo of a doo-doo has all the time in the world to drink, play the STD lottery, and mope to his heart’s content. If only more of us are this lucky. He wants pity? Well, here’s pity staring down at him from the muzzle of my stun gun. Shut up, dude!
The author also kills the momentum of the story – or what little of it that is present anyway, since most of the time it’s just playground squabbles and silly hormonal antics between the two of them – by spending the bulk of the middle portion to set up the next book. That’s not too bad, though, as the characters are so familiar and their behavior is straight out of central casting so often, the reader’s familiarity with these tropes and what not may create the impression that these characters are more well drawn than they actually are. But they are still boring, so there’s that.
Cold-Hearted Rake is not something that would get me all worked up in excitement. In fact, I actually put down this book many times because there were so many things around me that were more interesting than the constant hot-and-cold antics of Mopey Boo-boo and his girlfriend. At one point I put the book down to pick at my nose and promptly forgot about it until I accidentally sat on the book much later, while getting ready to watch Lady Gaga have simulated sex with gay guys on American Horror Story: Hotel. It’s safe to say that this one isn’t exactly a triumphant comeback into the historical romance genre. Still, there’s always the next book.