Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-5233-4
Historical Romance, 2004
The way to read a Connie Mason book is to first prepare myself to expect the worst. It especially helps to imagine the hero as Elmer Fudd and the heroine as Daffy Duck. However, this only works if Ms Mason comes up with a book that manages to attain camp status due to the sheer hilarity of its problems. Whether this occurs in her book is purely by chance, which makes Ms Mason more like an accidental queen of camp rather than a deliberate one.
The Last Rogue is prime comedy based on the premise alone and I have a good laugh in the first half of the book. However, the second half is pure agony because the hero is so recalcitrant that it would take a jackhammer to bore some sense through his skull into his brain. And being the way that I am, I will be delighted to test the theory of the hero Lucas Westmore’s skull permeation with a jackhammer if I am given the opportunity.
Lucas Westmore is guilt-ridden when his pregnant girlfriend ends up dead. Okay, this girlfriend and Lucas are both slutty boinkbunnies that shag anything that happens to move (no, Lucas, not the sheep), but in accordance to the beautiful double standards of the genre, Sybil is the slut who will burn in hell, while Lucas is just misunderstood and all he needs to heal is to dip his disease-ridden much-abused dipstick into the untouched and hence pure and noble purply-prosed pinkish-hued orifice of maidenhood of our heroine. Lucas, guilt-ridden, decides that the only way he can atone is by not having sex for a year.
Okay, people, stop laughing. It is possible, I suppose, that there will be a man so self-absorbed and clueless that he believes everything to revolve around the tip of his little soldier. If Lucas believes that the world will be alright and justice will be served by him not shagging for a year, who am I to disagree? At least this dumb lummox is not doing anything that may actually cause serious harm, like becoming a secret agent, I suppose.
The heroine, on the other hand, is happily jumping right into harm’s way. Bliss Hartley leads the folks of her village of St Ives in England’s second favorite past time (after soccer): smuggling. Of course, she’s not greedy or evil or anything, genteel readers, she just wants money to send her sick father to London to see a doctor. The happy folks of St Ives chip in and help because the sick man is their squire and they all love him so much. When Lucas comes to St Ives (so that he doesn’t dip his winkie into anything female and hence break his vow to Sybil, who must surely appreciate Lucas’s thoughtfulness on her behalf even as she burns in hell for daring to be a sexual woman), he pokes around, learns that Bliss is really the smugglers’ ringleader Shadow, and saves Bliss from being captured by telling everyone that she is his future wife. Maybe he is hoping that they will pity any woman who is stupid enough to be engaged to him that they will let Bliss off the hook?
Until this point the book is pure hilarity in how ridiculous the whole premise is, which is contrasted beautifully with Ms Mason’s misguided tonal sobriety. But once Lucas and Bliss embark on this sham engagement, the story plunges into a tedious rut of Bliss being stupid and Lucas being even more stupid. Lucas’s insistence that he is not marriage material is one I am hard-pressed to disagree with, but his insistence on sleeping with Bliss and then driving her away in the next moment makes him a complete asshole, especially when he keeps saying at the same time that he doesn’t believe himself to be the faithful kind. Who wants him to be faithful? I’d really love it if Bliss comes out and tells him that the only reason she is sleeping with him and faking it every time is because of his money and reputation, but alas, Bliss is all about love. She is also one of those horrendously impulsive heroines who dash headlong into trouble without thinking again and again, apparently unable to learn from her mistakes. The only reason why this book is even remotely palatable at that point is that Bliss doesn’t delude herself into thinking that Lucas is nice to her when he’s being an asshole. But the fact remains that she lets him treat her that way, however.
But in a way, it makes sense that Bliss is so stupid because what other kind of woman would want to marry a brainless twit like Lucas? Their combined IQ will come down to a single digit. It makes sense that those two end up with each other and they are spawning to boot,even as the rest of the world try to cover their eyes at the train-wreck that results. So, as much as The Last Rogue is awful, it’s not bad or toxic in any way because it makes sense, at the end of the day, in an unfortunately most depressing manner.