Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80916-8
Historical Romance, 2000
Reforming a Rake is ultimately a frustrating story because it pairs a man who must be temptation incarnate with a heroine who isn’t just, well, worthy. When the heroine comes off as just plain fickle and sometimes emotionally immature, it only magnifies my disappointment tenfold because Lucien Balfour is so, so hot that surely angels must be tempted to sin in his presence.
Virtuous governess Alexandra Gallant is down in her luck. After being fired from her last post when a lecherous nobleman tried to force his attentions on her, she is desperate and in need of a job. (Not that I know, I’m just presuming, because Lex has a nice, kind, and wealthy noblewoman buddy who is there to be her safety net.) She gets herself hired as a chaperon/tutor to Lucien’s ward, his cousin Rose who has the manners of a greedy pig. And Lucien has naughty plans for this governess, heh heh.
Ooh Lucien. Oh my. I’m still fanning myself from the aftermath of being scorched by this man’s devilish and infectious good humor and bad, bad, bad boy charm. He may be bad, he may had a naughty past, but he never whines and indulges in overblown and melodramatic I’m not worthy, so I’ll make you hate me nonsense. No, indeed, he just cranks up the seduction factor. Charm, a razor sharp wit, and dark, broody Byron-esque looks – how nice.
If Lucien is one darned good-looking rake who makes me go all aflutter, Alexandra makes me go Huh?. First off, why would a woman who had a bad encounter with a lecherous pig work for a well-known lecher (Lucien)? Then there’s Alexandra’s annoying behavior of not doing anything. She has no money, but do I see her doing anything about it? Nope, she just mope around bemoaning her lack of employment to her buddy. When she realizes that Lucien wants to marry her, what does she do? Plan to run away, because, oh, just because. She has some minor revelations that she can’t tell Lucien, because… I guess she doesn’t trust him. Then why is she kissing him?
Likewise, Alexandra demonstrates conflicting personality. On one hand, she tells Lucien that her uncle is scum because he disowned her mother for marrying a commoner. But at the end it is revealed that all she wants is her uncle’s love. Why the heck would a woman want to be in the hearth of a family she knows is cold and heartless is beyond me. Then there’s her irritating tendency to lie down when things are stacked against her, closing her eyes and hoping that those people stamping on her back wouldn’t be wearing boots with too-hard soles. Lucien is the one who has to solve almost every lil’ fix in her life, from arranging a meeting with her estranged family to saving her reputation to, well, everything.
Alexandra may display some charming wit, but ultimately she’s no more than another damsel-in-distress. How disappointing – it’s as if the author pours her heart and soul in creating a sinfully delicious hero and is too exhausted to do anything else when it comes to the heroine, or the secondary characters.
Oh yes, the secondary characters like Rose and her mother Fiona. They are horribly underdeveloped, making them nothing more than caricatures that our hero can sharpen his claws on and for wimpy Alexandra to coo and mother over.
The problematic heroine and secondary characters drag whatever hard work Lucien puts in to make Reforming a Rake brilliant down into mundanity. I really must reiterate my disappointment at the way everyone but Lucien is handled.