Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29872-3
Historical Romance, 2016
There’s the Rake Most Likely to Sin, and then here’s the dog most likely to gnaw on a bone, and let’s not forget the Harlequin Presents with a secret baby plot. We are all stating the obvious today.
This is the story of Brennan Cole, built up to be the rake, the hero whose book I’m supposed to be waiting impatiently for. As it is, he takes himself to Greece, where he continues to think with his little head as he nods in satisfaction and tells me that he’s really undergoing plenty of character development by doing some farm work and such. He soon finds himself being slowly maneuvered by his host into marrying his daughter, so to deflect that, he decides to go for some kind of arrangement with the local widow, Patra Tspiras. Oh, he’d sleep with her, naturally, and it’s fun because he doesn’t want to marry her and he makes sure that she knows it, so yeah, hurrah for happy sex. Remember the character growth mentioned earlier? It’s reflected in his pants, alright. Meanwhile, Patra’s late husband was involved with some guys who wanted to cause trouble for Greece and England, so Patra has no excuse to just walk off from Brennan even if she wants to. As you can probably imagine, later on she will desperately try to martyr herself so that he can be safe.
This one is predictable, sticks to the script faithfully, but it is well-written enough to be a painless read nonetheless. There are even moments when I find myself thinking that this story is quite entertaining at places.
But it doesn’t try to be anything more than just another familiar fare, and that’s a pity. Patra is no match for Brennan at all. Apparently no woman can resist our hero, including Patra, so there is never anyone who genuinely challenges our hero or even matches him in terms of wit. She is already in a position of weakness by being pursued by the bad guys, and she just have to be another blushing, sighing, twit putty in his arms. What’s so special about her? I’m not sure. Maybe she needs protecting, and he likes that kind of thing? I don’t see Patra as a believable catalyst for Brennan’s character growth like the author wants me to, so I’ve a hard time buying the grand romance.
Also, Brennan’s “drama” makes my eyes roll. He talks about needing to prove his worth by living among people who accept him as he is… but here he is, surrounded by peasants who think the world of him because he’s an Englishman. He’s just traded one pampered cushion of an existence for one that still puts him on a pedestal, and he is still free to be as immature and bratty as he will. He’s rich, he is celebrated by his friends, and he has all the wine, women, and song as he pleases… and his only angst is that his parents didn’t show him the love like he thought they should. When in the end he thinks about how he has made peace with his family, I can only snort. This is one pampered brat acting like he’s undergone some kind of life-changing epiphany when all he did up to that point is to basically nail a hot chick on the equivalent of a prolonged Spring Break of that era.
Naturally, after all that talk about honest’s day toil and sweat making him a “grown up man” or something, he returns to his cushy existence. The whole “character growth” of Brennan here is as superficial as can be, and yet the author treats the whole thing as if Brennan is going to star in his own Ernest Hemingway story.
Rake Most Likely to Sin is a readable book that sticks to the formula closely, but ultimately, I end up wishing for more. Maybe if Patra has been a better match for Brennan, or maybe if Brennan’s angst has been a little more serious, or… maybe, maybe, maybe. The last chapter is really nice, though. Too bad the rest of the book isn’t like that.