Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91709-3
Historical Romance, 2016
Unlike her last few books, Sarah Mallory’s The Outcast’s Redemption has two main characters that are generally okay. The problem with them is that their romance takes a backseat to the hero’s quest to clear his name, so the whole thing jumps from hot lustful glances to happy ending with several stops along the way being skipped altogether. This is an odd thing for the author to do, considering that this one is the book in the series – you know, the book that, at long last, showcases the most mysterious, aloof, sexy, et cetera sequel bait finally pulling down his trousers to wow the heroine and the readers. I was expecting something more epic, dramatic, sweeping.
Ten years ago, Wolfgang Arrandale was found standing over the dead body of his wife, oops. His father was convinced that Wolfgang murdered that woman – Wolfgang and his father never got along anyway – so Wolfgang ran off to the Continent to pout, build up his body to be even more muscular, does “unsavory” things to survive and build up his hot cred, and so forth. Well, he’s back today because he just learned that the wife popped out their kid before she got killed. He had always thought that the kid died, but now that he knows that she isn’t dead, he’s back in London to clear his name. What, you may think, won’t be it hard to do that since ten years had passed and it’s not like they had a cold case department in those days? Well, just believe in the power of romance novels, and be amazed at how easy it can be.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of the author’s books, the author is a very capable author – her narrative is clean, her pacing is often well done, and, technically, there is nothing wrong with this one. But reading this story requires a huge suspension of disbelief because the author makes it too easy for Wolfgang.
Grace Duncombe, our heroine, is one of the very few people who hold even a little skepticism about the hero’s reputation. Her father, the parson, welcomes Wolfgang without qualms, saying that he’s always believed that our hero is innocent, and harbors our hero at his place and practically pimps out his daughter to help Wolfgang out in every capacity. Wolfgang’s aunt also believes him. Our hero wastes no time getting back his valet, who has always been loyal to him, along with other people and remnants to basically rebuild his old life, just by showing up and being who he is. As a result, the author unintentionally presents to me a hero who basically ran off to the Continent, despite having so many people blindly believing in his innocence, just because his daddy didn’t love him enough, oh dear. Perhaps I’d be more sympathetic to Wolfgang if the author had actually made our hero work and sweat a bit more to get his happy ending. As it is, I have more eyerolls than hugs to give to dear Wolfgang.
And it’s perplexing to see so many people blindly believing in Wolfgang’s innocence, apparently because they knew him from way back. I am also told here that he was a pretty dedicated and infamous rake back in those days – drinking, whoring, etc – to the point that his peers shunned him and he threw himself into more shady crowds to have fun. So, what on earth made these people believe that he couldn’t have murdered his wife? Who knows, maybe he got too drunk, or he went mad, or something, right? The whole Team Wolfgang Forever fan club thing here feels contrived, like the author taking shortcuts for the hero or something.
The mystery may have been interesting too if the author doesn’t make it so easy for Wolfgang to clear it, or that the whole investigation comprises mostly a boring series of traveling and interrogation. The villain, of course, tells everything, and by now, the revelations should be as expected by readers who are familiar with the genre: the dead wife was a ho bag who sexed it up with the villain, blah blah blah, so Grace is clearly the most awesome woman for the hero because she’s not a ho bag, plus she loves to clean, keep house, and would be a good mother.
So, basically, our former ho bag hero – who’s of course adorable because, you know, penis – just waltzes back to London when he finally decides to clear his name, gets it done with a fan club cheering him on, and gets a 3-in-1 housewife/sex babe/mother to his daughter convenience pack in the process. Good for him, but not so good for readers who are looking for stories that are a bit more believable, compelling, romantic, or suspenseful.