Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7532-4
Historical Romance, 2003
I dislike this anthology. One Night with a Rogue features three heroines that go from dumb to dumber to unbelievably moronic sleeping with rogues for reasons that range from I Just Want One Night, Only One Night to Last a Lifetime to I’m Just Stupid, Forgive Me, People.
One word about this anthology: readers more aware of the proper rankings and use of English titles have commented that the stories here will fail miserably in a historic accuracy test. I can’t comment as to me, dukes and earls are all mere euphemisms for “rich and inebriated” and I don’t know much about how exactly each title outranks the other in privileges and inheritances.
Candace McCarthy’s Lady Jane’s Lover is the most excruciating. Thanks, Zebra, for putting this story first. That way, the other two mediocre stories come off smelling like deliverance from the forces of light and goodness and when I finish the anthology, I realize that I should never take my brain cells for granted again. After all, we tend not to know what we have got until we almost lost them all.
In this story, Jane Graham is traveling in a coach alone because her cousin has eloped with some working class guy in the name of true love. Poor Jane is now dreading the thought of having to explain her cousin’s disappearance to this cousin’s parents. However, she gets a little sidetracked when she is attacked by highwaymen. Broc Lawson rescues her, and how convenient that she has always has a crush on him forever. He gets wounded, she drags him to a magically vacant and fully stocked cottage, where she then nurses him and peeks at his nakedness. Then he wakes up and ohmigosh, he has amnesia!
Even when he regains his memories, there are some silly baggage from him about being disowned by his parents. But it doesn’t matter. Jane displays a pathetic codependent streak that has her insisting almost hysterically that Broc is perfect, Broc can never do anything wrong, never, ever! She’ll probably accuse Jesus Christ of being a lying scumbag if Jesus hints that Broc’s hair isn’t so well-conditioned and there are probably a few split ends about. Frankly, she terrifies me. I bet she has bug-eyes and if she’s real, she’s probably lurking around fangirl boards drooling over oversexed heroes even as she sensually caresses the blade of her favorite ax in anticipation of the day she gets to tie the man of her dreams to her bed and put the ax to good use. If Broc dies, Jane will preserve the man’s disembodied head and sleep beside it every night.
Linda Madl’s Beyond Temptation is the most well-written of the three, but the heroine is not much smarter than the other two women in this anthology. Eden is the youngest daughter of a preacher who is resigned to spending her life taking care of her father. But, of course, these women always need one night of sex to remind them of the fun stuff they are missing for the rest of their lives, and Eden is no different. She sleeps with Anthony for special memories (precaution – who cares? Papa will be so pleased when her daughter experiences, er, an immaculate conception!) and is then horrified when the man she assumes to be a rake walks into her life. How dare the rake refuse to honor his word to stay away from her! Of course, Eden is wrong and not everything revolves around her and her stupid antics, but nonetheless, as she and Anthony rally against a bad guy who just wants to usurp Papa and build a bigger church in the area, they fall in love. The heroine, of course, puts up a million reasons why she cannot embrace happiness and marry the hero, and frankly, I don’t really empathize too much.
Debbie Raleigh’s Night of Seduction has Charity Malone, another woman resigned to taking care of her ailing father and remaining unmarried for One Secret Reason, hearing that Lord Caldwell, the man she has loved all her life, is on the verge of suicide. She charges in to take care of him, and in some alcoholic haze, he mistakes her one foggy night to be a mysterious woman who is his salvation. So thanks to a fog – literal and metaphorical – Charity gets to play out a double-life thing with Caldwell. It’s an implausible premise, but the story gets even more annoying when Charity also decides that she must have sex just one time for those memories of a lifetime. Charity starts out being an intelligent woman who recognizes that her crush on Caldwell is due to the fact that she rarely meets any eligible gentleman. But the whole implausible and even cartoony double-life masquerade she gets into plunges the whole story into silliness. A heroine who doesn’t seem to consider the consequences of sleeping with a man can’t be too smart at the end of the day.
If I am to make allowances for the common flaws in characterization and plots in anthologies, One Night with a Rogue is still a below average anthology.