Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82083-8
Historical Romance, 2003
While I complained that the rake hero of Suzanne Enoch’s loosely related previous book The Rake is a bit of a fake, I cannot say the same about Michael, the Earl of St Aubyn (or “Saint” as everyone calls him), the hero of this book. He starts out so unpleasantly boorish, hypocritical, and disagreeable but the author gives him a mighty kick in the groin, just the way all bad boys should be treated in romance novels. London’s Perfect Scoundrel would have been a grand alpha mule story if the heroine has been a worthier match for Saint.
Saint and Evelyn Ruddick clash wits over the most unlikeliest of subject: she wants to contribute to an orphanage but he refuses to let her. He pretends to let her, but that’s to corner her and come onto her with all the subtlety of a drunken brain-damaged stupid fratboy. And here lies the biggest problem of this story: Evelyn is attracted from the start. How could any sane woman be when Saint is ridiculously uncouth and disrespectful? Then again, Evelyn is a stereotypical Regency-era heroine: it’s all about the children, people, and while she’s okay with sleeping with hero, he must say those three words first before he can get more from her. Assuming there’s “more” to be taken from this silly woman.
Saint is a hypocritical creature who sneers at the promiscuous society women he willingly sleeps with while mocking virtuous innocent types that he lusts after. But his comeuppance is well done: he falls hard, and while it’s a long way to fall, he’s laughing all the way. I love it! But I fail to comprehend why the heroine doesn’t put up a harder fight to make the man’s comeuppance worthwhile. Evelyn is willing to be had even when he’s not even showing her the R-E-S-P-E-C-T she deserves, and I fail to understand her reasoning. Sure, she loves a bad boy, but I always assumed that you love the bad boy your parents warned you about because he is seductive and slick, not because he comes on to you like a ten-ton Sumo wrestler wanting to crush you to bits.
To give credit where it’s due, I do like the fact that the author has Evelyn acknowledging that she loves the bad part of Saint – she revels in the seductiveness of his rakish side. If Evelyn has been less a nitwit stereotype who puts up a harder fight when it comes to winning her heart, Saint’s change of heart will seem like a worthier crusade to read and enjoy.
I love the bad, bad, bad and incongruously named hero in London’s Perfect Scoundrel and I enjoy watching his ego crash to pieces. Now, if only the heroine has been smarter, brighter, less shrill, less self-depreciatory, and less of a stereotype, then this book would have been Suzanne Enoch’s perfect Avon Romantic Treasure debut. As it is, this book is good if only for a gloriously rakish hero, but the heroine could use a complete overhaul.