Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241273-7
Historical Romance, 2016
The fact that I was callous enough to ignore the majority of Katharine Ashe’s previous books during my “Let’s not read Avon historical romances for a long while!” days has clearly come back to bite me in the rear end when it comes to The Rogue. Judging from the author’s afterword, this one is linked to what seems like every book she has ever written. Fair enough, who doesn’t like a big party? But here, I am completely lost. I think I’m missing out on something, as the motivations of the hero and the heroine make little sense most of the time. The best part of this whole thing is that this one is marketed as the first in a new series!
This one has a strong Gaelen Foley vibe – abandon all your sensibilities, just go with the excitement – but minus the campy, wham-bang fun that often makes it very enjoy a book by Gaelen Foley. What’s left is just a pile of weird.
We have our heroine, Constance Read, who is a daughter of a duke but is big on helping downtrodden women. She is part of the Falcon Club, a secret society that does secret-agent stuff. There are the Peregrine, the Sparrow, the Eagle, the Sea Hawk, and the Raven. Quick: guess which one is Constance’s codename. Hint: the lamest one. When the story opens, the Sparrow – sigh – wants to look into the case of several missing girls. She suspects that it may be due to some evil nobleman who is into demon-worship or something. Her father insists that she gets married soon, so acting like she wants to marry the suspect, a duke, is just the thing.
Meanwhile, her father hires our hero, Evan Saint-André Sterling or Saint, to teach her how to fence. I don’t know why anyone would hire a well-known womanizing rake to teach one’s young, unmarried daughter how to handle swords, but as I’ve said, this story is what it is, and it’s either going along or getting an aneurysm. Constance and Saint go six years back when they met and flirt, apparently starting a connection so strong that no amount of women that Saint mounts thereafter can ever compare.
It is one thing if the story brings on the action and the demon-worshiping lunacy, but the bulk of the story has two people making surly faces and dry humping when they are not making vague references to events in their past. Naturally, they cross the line and have to marry, and Constance, whom you may remember is determined to marry even a depraved killer to save the world, suddenly goes, “Oh no! I trapped him into something he doesn’t want, so I must play the martyr, do everything to break it off, and take every opportunity to mope about that!” How predictable, and how tedious. These people talk a lot. but don’t say much of interest, and for a story that is supposed to be taking down a killer, it focuses way too much on the main characters’ navels.
Constance and Saint are gorgeous, apparently amazing people who can do everything and anything while making sarcastic quips in the process, so watching them act like the saddest people in the world make me wish that someone would beat some sense into them with a trombone or something. They have issues, which are resolved in such a throwaway glib manner that I don’t know why the author even bothered in the first place. Constance, for example, has issues with intimacy due to an unpleasant encounter in the past, but hey, with Saint she’s all about the whoopee and hee hee and some whee on top. Apparently she only doesn’t like sex when the guy seems to take charge… or something. The whole thing feels artificial.
Readers who have followed the author’s books closely may have a better time with The Rogue. I need some kind of plot GPS to make sense of the story, and I’m additionally befuddled by the characters’ antics, which often seem to come up only for the sake of creating some lame conflict. At any rate, without campy kung-fu ninja fun, this one doesn’t have much to be worth the effort of deciphering the whole thing. I may as well read something by Gaelen Foley for more of the same type of fun and less of a headache.