Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23562-6
Historical Romance, 2000
A bit of background information: The Ruthless Charmer is book two of the series The Rogues of Regent Street. The series is about a few friends who are supposed to be debauched rakes of the first order getting shackled to London bluestockings/hellions/both (delete where applicable).
Perhaps other readers may find it otherwise, but I find this one almost shockingly devoid of humor and there’s this feeling that this book is written in a half-baked manner. It’s about the seduction of the bluestocking, education reformist, prim and proper Lady Claudia Whitney by her childhood buddy Julian Dane. The whole story revolves around them doing everything from kissing to heavy petting to going all the way, with our heroine suffering a massive hangover of a guilt after each incident.
The hero does his thing, the heroine succumbs and then subjects me to her painful hand-wringing guilt-party, and I wonder when sex has become this painful for romance heroines.
You know what’s the main problem of this story? I don’t believe in a single moment of this romance. Not when the heroine’s repertoire consists of melting at first touch – after the obligatory comebacks to prove she’s “feisty” – and then she will go, “No, no, no, never again! No, no, NO!” A heroine attracted to a rake yet whining like a spinster drowning in vinegar? Not today, darling.
Why her? Because she said no to him? Is that why he is so persistent? Why him? And if she is so virtuous and strong-willed, how come she can’t say no to him? Why does he insist on believing her true love lies in a dead man whom he knows was a drunkard and reprobate? I have no idea.
And the joke of the year has to be the notion that a rake who uses and abuses women like Julian is a better catch than a drunkard and wastrel like Phillip, the dead man. Then again, the other women seduced our hero, so maybe it’s a “they asked for it” thing.
After I finish The Ruthless Charmer, I am struck by how much unreal and hollow this romance is. It’s not a battle-of-sexes or even battle of wills between Claudia and Julian. Claudia just cannot stand her own as the author never dares to make her anything less than a one-dimensional Virtuous Reformist Heroine (with strong will and self discipline missing from the catalogue, of course) – she is easy game for Julian from get go. The rest of the story, therefore, depends on her persistent whining to keep the show running.
It’s as interesting as watching trees grow.