Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237941-2
Historical Romance, 2016
I last read Sarah MacLean’s books when she was coming up with long-winded titles like Sixteen Ways to Fondle a Fruitcake in Order to Seduce a Typical Generic Rake. Now that I have tentatively broken my self-imposed ban on the majority of Avon historical romances, and this is the first book in a new series, this one seems like a good place to begin my re-acquaintance with her. To my surprise, The Rogue Not Taken is not a typical Avon-style historical romance set in 19th century England. In this one, we have an asshole hero making life miserable for the heroine while moaning and whining that his life is the worst ever because he believes that nobody will ever love him.
Sophie Talbot detests Society, especially the way those folks mock and sneer at her and her family. It doesn’t help that her sisters invite and revel in scandalous behavior, while Sophie only wants to be left alone to stare at people through owlish eyes. During a ball, she loses it and completely burns her bridges by making a big fuss. Her flounce is ruined by the fact that she needs a ride home. Kingscote or “King”, our Marquess of Eversley, is fleeing his lover’s husband when he bumps into Sophie, who wants a lift home. He refuses, because he is too busy moaning about how the world doesn’t love him, and she bribes his footman into selling her his livery so that she can sneak away on his coach anyway. It turns out that he is heading out of London. Oops.
Despite the fact that Sophie has nowhere to go and is now in a precarious position because – let’s face it – she’s a sheltered princess who thinks she’s a snowflake when, in truth, she has no skills that will help her survive out there in the great big world, the author has her instead being the emotional punching bag of King as he treats her like complete dirt. All the way to the last few pages, all she wants to do is to love him even as he keeps trampling on and crushing her heart. The hero then finally talks to his father, realizes that he’s been wrong all this while, oops, but it’s okay, time to get back the wife for a happy ending. The wife is so grateful that he takes her back before she really leaves him for good, and I am even more grateful that this story is over and I can stop clenching my fists.
Now, I have nothing against bad boys in general. However, maybe it’s just me – I’ve been reading these books for so long now – or the fact that this is just another similarly-themed book that I’ve read in the last few weeks, but I tire of all these pampered, spoiled, emotionally-stunted men-children whining about how horrible their past is while taking no accountability for the way they treat the people around them. Sophie is in a far worse position than King, and yet, she has to bend over backwards to cater to King’s spoiled temper tantrums. Why? It’s not like she’s deliberately marrying him for money or something – that will make too much sense – so I have no idea, and I have little patience for King’s antics. I love tortured big boys who either have valid reasons to mope or experience timely epiphany and grovel appropriately. I don’t like whiny little man-child like King who is lucky enough to have everyone inexplicably loving him and bearing his abuse while wailing that they love him so, so much.
Perhaps the author could have made things better by having King experience some kind of epiphany earlier. Or if she made King a little less of a spoiled privileged crybaby – maybe make him missing his testicles, or give him a severe body odor problem, anything to give him a valid reason to go wah-wah-wah life sucks. I don’t know, but I do know that King can eat my shorts – and choke on them.