Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7624-X
Historical Romance, 2004
Adrienne Basso’s To Tempt a Rogue is all about a nanny heroine taking care of the hero’s three wards and gets him to fall in love with her through her apparently infinite capability to be the best mother the world has ever known. I have no idea how the heroine gets to be this smart and her background doesn’t give me any clues to work on. She’s such a Mary Sue heroine, who’s the way she is just because she’s written that way, like Athena bursting out of Zeus’ forehead fully grown.
Our heroine Harriet Sainthill (the name should have been warning enough) is a spinster who is currently dependent on her Viscount brother’s charity for a roof over her head and all. She and her brother are not exactly on the best of terms, thanks to her telling him how he should raise his kids and all, so she decides that she should be better off being independent and making her living as a governess. The thing is, her reputation is tainted thanks to a broken engagement in her past, so I don’t know who she thinks will want to hire her as a governess. She doesn’t seem to know how to go about becoming a governess. Harriet is a heroine who makes plans without pausing to consider how she will make these plans work. What she does do well, though, is to lecture people on the best ways of parenting. Harriet is therefore a know-it-all who at the same thing isn’t so capable as she thinks she is. Oh dear.
Our hero Nathaniel Bennett is a nobleman but he loves to insist that he’s a rake and he is not keen about his title. He’s asked by his late brother on the sorry sod’s deathbed to take care of the sod’s son (who will be the Duke once the sod expires) and two daughters. Nathaniel, however, is more keen on pouting and acting like some anguished rake so those kiddies end up in the clutches of a relative more unsavory than Nathaniel. Our hero, realizing that he cannot win in a custody case for those kiddies – not that I know why because Ms Basso never provides details about the late Duke’s settlements, provisions, or such for those kiddies – decides to kidnap those kids and bring them to his Scottish estate. He then puts out a notice for a governess and guess who decides to become our hero’s Mary Poppins.
To Tempt a Rogue is a predictable story because our heroine will naturally put everything in order and the kiddies will be so happy once again. She will charm our hero into seeing what a wonderful heroine she is. The external conflict comes from the nasty relative who wants to control the kiddies and squander their inheritance, unlike our rake hero who is of course not the kind of squander money foolishly. The heroine can sense that he’s a good man, after all. Harriet and Nathaniel don’t really deviate from the formula and the kiddies are predictably anguished yet sweet depending on how the author wants to use them as plot devices.
But then, late in the story, the heroine completely loses her mind, jumps to the worst possible conclusion about the hero, lets the villain know where the kiddies are hidden, and make me want to rest my forehead against the table and moan in pain. Strangely enough, the hero, who can be passive and silly as well, is the one who decides to assume full responsibility of the mess the heroine creates in this story, thus allowing Harriet the sanctimonious know-it-all twit off the hook. It really is love, eh?
Perhaps if the plot doesn’t head down the silly path just to set into motion some “exciting” drama for the grand finish, To Tempt a Rogue would be merely a predictable but still readable story. Even so, historical accuracy purists have better take caution because the very premise of this story isn’t going to sit well with them. But with the last few chapters the way they are, this book ends up being more annoying than it should and could have been.