Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29866-2
Historical Romance, 2016
Rake Most Likely to Seduce – isn’t that like Cop Most Likely to Arrest Somebody? What’s the point of the title, what is it trying to tell me?
In addition to being saddled with some of the more ridiculous book titles around, Bronwyn Scott is also a frustrating author to follow. She is all over the place, and her books are either misfires or amazing – nothing in between. This one, I’m afraid, is another story in which the main characters behave in befuddling ways.
Nathan Gray, like his buddies in previous two books in the Rakes on Tour series, is in Venice to enjoy life. He is a gambler, and you know how it is in romance novels: gambling heroes only have to exist and they get all the winning hands in the land. The turn of the card is how his story begins. While normally I don’t rehash the synopsis on the back cover – that will be cheating, and depriving you of my excellent wit – this particular one is too good not to quote.
All gamblers are alike in luck…
Although when Nolan Gray enters a high-stakes game Venice, facing a ruthless opponent, he’ll need more than just luck. He can’t start losing now… especially when the virginity of the enthralling Gianna Minotti hangs in the balance!
I know, that excerpt makes it sound like a kraken will rise from the waters and destroy Venice should some randy phallus dares to creep into Gianna’s chalice of virtue, but the actual scenario is not too bad. Gianna’s stepfather wagers her virginity when he has nothing left to put up at the table, and Nolan decides to win, in order to spare the terrified young lady of the fate that awaits her should any other man at the table wins that particular round. Gianna will get her hands on her own money if she can avoid her father (it’s a will thing, don’t ask) – by hanging on to Nolan, even if it means being his mistress – and that money will free her from her father’s tyranny. The whole adventure will span from bedroom to dangerous roads with her father not giving up on her so easily.
The whole thing sounds exciting, but the execution is all over the place. I don’t get the characters at all. For example, Nolan has no intention of sleeping with Gianna when he wins her, and yet he baits her, allowing her to think that the worst is to come. Why? I suppose this allows me to see what an “alpha” dude he is (there goes my rolling eye), but the whole thing makes no sense unless I’m meant to see him as a petty little twerp.
Gianna at first acts like she’d rather stuff a cactus up her privates than be his mistress, but then, when he tells her finally that she has better chances of scoring with that cactus, she immediately decides that she needs to be his mistress, so that she can avoid his father until the day she gets her hands on her inheritance. Okay, I get that maybe, at first, she was too scared to realize that she may benefit from becoming Nolan’s mistress, but her turnaround is so quick and ridiculous that Nolan is understandably suspicious. And yet. instead of telling the truth – or at the very least, a credible lie – Gianna goes all evasive and nervous in such a way that one has to be completely brained out not to see that she’s lying in such a poor manner, she should just be put down as an act of mercy.
This early behavior sets a pattern for the rest of the story. Characters behave in ways that make little sense, other than to start new drama or prolong existing ones. In the process, Nolan frequently comes off as deliberately mean and antagonistic while Gianna is often just too stupid in a way that defies any adjective in the English language. Things get much better when the story shifts from cartoon romance to something more of a murder mystery, as our main characters have something else to focus on other than finding ways to be absurd. Still, it’s quite bad when some poor sod has to die just to make the story more readable. Don’t worry, Gianna plays the usual “running away now” stunt and runs right into the villain’s clutches, so it’s not like the characters have suddenly become smart or something.
Rake Most Likely to Seduce never recovers from its awful start when both the hero and the heroine act like kids. They still remain like kids, especially poor Giana, and all their antics feel artificial and contrived, as they often serve only to introduce or prolong conflict. The author should try a bit more to make her characters believable and half-way sane adults in the future.