Harlequin Historical, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91700-0
Historical Romance, 2016
It all begins when Ross Jameson, our self-made hero, stumbles upon the Earl of Runcorn about to wager his family home on a card game. He steps in and wins the house, and Runcorn ends the night splattering his brain all over the pavement. Well, that’s okay. Ross has a new house now, yay. Runcorn’s sister Hannah Steers, however, is not amused. When the lout moves into the house, she shows up at the job vacancy interview session to be his housekeeper. She is hired, of course, or there will be no story.
Hannah then spends her time scowling and being antagonistic at Ross – so much for finesse – while reading his letters, hoping to find something incriminating… although she has no clue what she really wants to do should she find what she is looking for. After he kisses her, she suddenly sees the light and she loves him now. But by that time, Ross has noticed someone messing with his letters. Is the East India Trading Company up to no good, sending someone to join his staff and meddle through his things? Gee, he wonders whom that could be…
The problem with That Despicable Rogue can be summed up in one sentence: the characters are all binary drama queens, going from 0 to 10,000 with no stop in between.
Hannah goes from I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HIM to OMG HE’S SO CUTE AND SWEET AND ADORABLE abruptly, and even then, her primary reason for her stunt is all over the place. Her brother committed suicide, and while I suppose I can imagine why she still hates Runcorn anyway, I am later told that she knows what a useless, neglectful good-for-nothing her brother was when he was alive and she even said that it as a matter of time before he gambled away everything. So why does she act like Ross has killed someone she has great love for? One moment she’s all I WANT REVENGE! and then she’s all MY DEAD BRO IS AN ASSHOLE ANYWAY, and worse, she can go back and forth between these two extremes. She doesn’t make sense as a character.
Same with Ross – nothing but 0 or 10,000 for him too. His behavior doesn’t make sense, too. If he is such a nice person, like the author tells me, why does he deliberately win the house from a man he knows should not be wagering that place? It’s not like he intends to give back the house. And if he wants the house that much, can’t he buy it? Runcorn may be a jerk, but his suicide is an ill-introduced plot device. And then, he suspects Hannah of something fishy, and I’d have thought he’d be more… understanding when her deception is unmasked, as he has developed tender feelings and an understanding of her past up to that point. But oh, he immediately goes into YOU ARE A LYING TART, PLEASE GO DIE IN A FIRE NOW mode and I can only roll up my eyes.
I don’t feel sorry for Hannah, though. That development is payback for all the times she hears, sees, or reads something about Ross and immediately flares up in an I KNOW IT, YOU ARE NOW AN IRREDEEMABLE MONSTER, I HATE YOU AGAIN manner.
That’s the thing: these two people are incapable of moderate behavior. It’s all LOVE!!! or HATE!!! at any given moment, and as a result, these two are like not-so-bright children who should not be getting married anytime soon. The author is often aware of how childish or silly her characters are, so I can only surmise that the problem lies in the execution. If the author had allowed her characters to be less melodramatic and taken more effort to create more believable transitions from love to hate and back again, this one may not be a bad read. But as it is, though, this is a like a story with two leads who are more like mechanical constructs than human beings. I can’t really enjoy the story.