Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82080-3
Historical Romance, 2003
Well, what can I say? Confessions of a Scoundrel stars a familiar feisty heroine and familiar rake with a protective instinct, I don’t think readers who know what they expect will be disappointed by this one. I’m not, somewhat. The heroine exhibits all the familiar traits one has come to associate with heroines of these types of the books (do you know what I mean here?), same with the hero, the plot has no surprises. All in all, a pretty much typical fare from an author I’m hoping would deliver a little more punch in the romance department.
A series of problems that require Brandon St John to solve cause him to cross paths with rather down-on-her-luck widow Verena Westforth. A blackmail scheme from her side and a friend’s needing his favor will bring them both through adventures of the typical sort lovers of these types of books get into since time immemorial. He thinks she’s hot, she finds him exciting, and if I wait for their attraction to go any deeper than that, I may get a little blue in the face holding my breath at the end of the day. Driven by external conflicts, this book trundles easily, effortlessly to a predictable happy ending via the predictable path. Except maybe Verena, with her shopaholic nature and pleasant first marriage – she’s a little different in that she’s definitely not the joyless martyr type, but she exhibits the typically neurotic hang-ups about virtue and honor those Georgette Heyer/Jane Austen readers love to imagine as Virtues as Befit a Noble Woman (ooh, he pays me a five thousand pound check over a misunderstanding… nah, I won’t spend it, unless he, like, really makes me mad, and then I’ll spend it… or maybe not, as ‘pon my honor, it’s not honorable, is it?). The hero is gallant and reliable despite being a lip-service rake. The usual, really.
But I’m rather put off by the way this book doesn’t seem to be able to stand alone. The plots are a bit on a flimsy side, being nothing more than a series of adventures bringing the two lovebirds together. But more annoying is how the author treats secondary characters as nothing more than walking advertisements for her past and future books. As much as I admire foresight and far-thinking, I’m not too sure if I like the idea of an author using her characters as product placements. For example, in the opening chapter, all the men from Brandon’s family surrounds him when he is asleep. Do I need to know who Anthony, Devon, and Marcus are to enjoy this story? No. Do I need those cute little snippets starting off each chapter starring Royce Pemberley and his wife Liza and so many other people? No. They’re cute, but I find myself scrutinizing the names just to see where all these characters fit into this story. I recognize Liz and Royce from the author’s last novella, and I wonder if the author should be this eager in plugging her older books in this book everywhere. Eventually all these blatant plugs – come on, her brother will get his book, definitely, and so will Anthony (wait, he already did), Devon, Marcus, heck, everybody will, and when’s the fan club coming? – anyway, all this clutter is distracting and annoying.
In the end, Confessions of a Scoundrel is an otherwise pleasant book that annoys me by trying too hard to be part of a franchise. I don’t mind an author creating a series out of her books, but please, can we stop with this cluttering of a book with name-droppings and scenery chewing by characters from books past and future? Or I will feel manipulated by the author, and I will resent that, so please dial it down, thanks very much.