Booktrope, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-62015-941-5
Historical Romance, 2015
Meara Platt is moving backwards with The Farthingale Series – this story takes place before the previous two stories, so the heroines of the previous two books are younger and single in this one. Why does the author do this? As she puts it in the afterword, apparently doing things this way works better for her. This is probably a good thing too for readers, as they can easily read books in the series out of order and, for once, there are no intrusive sequel baits shoving their pregnancy and brats in everyone’s face while talking about the great sex they are having their new partners 24/7 in the later books in the series.
Daisy Farthingale is a rather pathetic doormat. She never complains even when her mother takes her for granted, neglects her welfare, and then blames her when things go wrong for poor Daisy or anyone else Daisy is caring for. In fact, she often comes up with excuses as to why she deserves to be treated like a doormat. In other words, she’s the kind of person who would be invited to my party only because I need a sucker who can be manipulated into doing all the cleaning up and such for free. In this story, she has to care for a passel of kids while her mother and other family members get to have fun and forget that she exists. One of the brats she is trying to rein in ends up making a mess on our hero Gabriel Dyne, and Daisy of course has to crash into the place he is staying to insist on making amends for the brat’s antics.
Gabriel Dyne is an Earl who is also a spy. He is a rake, if only by reputation – he has carefully created this rake persona so that he can do his spy thing in secret, to the point that he even allows his own father to think the worst of him. For example, most people assumed that he was recently shot by a jealous husband, but he actually got shot while doing his spy thing. In some ways, he is as dedicated at being a martyr as Daisy, but at least he’s doing this for the greater good, so good for him. Not that he does much spy stuff here – the gunshot wound he suffered allows him to spend more time in the company of his grandmother, friends, and Daisy.
Anyway, Gabriel has been warned by his friend that the Farthingales are not to be messed with. The eldest and the next oldest daughters have all been snatched up in that order, and Daisy is the next in line, so any man that values his bachelor status should avoid Daisy until she has found her victim. Gabriel is all, rubbish, he’s a spy whose body is trained to be in control at all times, so he has nothing to worry about. But one look at Daisy, with a brat’s mess dripping on his front, and he can’t help rising to the occasion. Given that his grandmother is the same Lady Eloise that features as the matchmaking doyenne in all the books in this series so far, and she has her eyes set on Gabriel being the one to bring Daisy into the fold, poor Gabriel’s bachelor status is doomed.
Rules for Reforming a Rake is such a textbook example of a formulaic historical romance that I can’t really tell whether the author is poking fun at the formula or adhering to the formula strictly. Maybe I’m just being hopeful because the first book in the series, My Fair Lily, has its share of formula subversion, and I hate to have my first impressions proven wrong – especially considering that I paid $16.95 for the trade paperback book. There are some amusing moments, though, especially those in which poor Gabriel is trying his best to avoid Daisy because he knows that she is going to be his downfall. I know that feeling, although Daisy terrifies me just as much for a different reason – she can be such a dreary rehash of the martyr heroine stereotype.
Daisy is exactly what it is said on the box: she’s a doormat, a well-trodden doormat who, at the same time, is very hesitant to make any step to improve her situation. It’s okay if people keep using her or taking her for granted – she doesn’t want to impose, and besides, they are probably stepping all over her back because they have a good reason to do what they are doing. At the same time, she is hopelessly gullible. When she hears rumors that Gabriel has taken a mistress, she immediately believes every word they tell her and flies into a hilarious-creepy scene in which she brutalizes a pillow. Given what she is, I suspect it would probably be two weeks into the marriage before she graduates from pillows to puppies. Given that Gabriel is a spy, and Daisy is someone who needs things to be laid out clearly and literally to her before she understands anything, I have no idea how she and Gabriel are going to last as a couple. She supports him and sex with him seems to give her a considerable IQ boost, but her linear and literal thinking would probably create plenty of wrong assumptions and big misunderstanding scenarios down along the road.
Oh, and the title refers to a book written by an infamous lady of the Ton, a book that doesn’t play as big a role as what I’d imagine something that gave the book its title would have.
At the end of the day, this book is an uneven read. There are some entertaining moments, but for the most part, the story feels like it’s just another rehash of the selfless ingénue and the much more worldly suitor story. It never comes together in a way that I’d like – the heroine and the hero never feel like they belong together, and the heroine lets people treat her like dirt for so long that she never resembles a believable human being. While I won’t consider this one a bad book – it has its moments – I’m not sure why one would read it when there are many better similarly themed stories out there. Well, maybe if it’s on sale for $0.99 or being offered for free on the Kindle store, I’d imagine.