by Kimberly Cates, Christina Dodd, Deborah Martin, and Anne Stuart; historical (1995)
St Martin's Press, $4.99, ISBN 0-312-95611-8
This anthology sure knows how to cover its bases when it comes to defining rogue. Kimberly Cates has a (sort of) noble highwayman for those with a fetish for black masks and flowing black capes. Christina Dodd has wet, water-plastered seafaring hunk. Deborah Martin soups up the Regency rake. And Anne Stuart will delight those looking for outlaw meanies.
I hesitate to say this, but I find the light, fluffy works of Kimberly Cates and Deborah Martin more enjoyable than the heavy duty stuff from Anne Stuart. For some reason, Christina Dodd's story just confuses me.
Such Wild Enchantment is Kimberly Cates' romantic farce. It's a farce because the whole plot is ridiculous, if fun. Rawdon Wyatt's friend has just gotten married. Since his friend had asked Rawdon to stop him at midnight at gunpoint should this occur, Rawdon dresses up as a highwayman and stops the first carriage he sees.
"Stop - eeek."
It is not his friend Percy in the carriage but Serena Creighton, impetous and too beautiful, who is fleeing the overardent pursuits of a French lad. Rawdon thinks she is bluffing, but she inadvertently drags him along a madcap adventure all across the countryside.
This story is zany. Serena can be over the top in her recklessness, but Rawdon's bemused act is rather charming. The fun is, of course, waiting for the besotted French lad to actually show up. Alas, he shows up halfway, and things go downhill soon after the lad is thrown off the picture. The story piddles into a Does he love me? Does she love me? snorefest. Luckily it ends soon after, thus it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of this story.
Christina Dodd's The Lady And The Tiger has seamstress Laura Haver banging her head against the wall that is Keefe Leighton to find out who murdered her brother. Needless to say, she believes some pirating scum called the Seamaster is responsible or at least holds some clues to the mystery, but guess who the Seamaster is really is.
Maybe it's my advanced age, and my brain not as sharp as it used to be, but I get confused for a while over who the hero actually is. I'm not even sure of his name until much later!
Even more exasperating is the hero's ultra-arrogant nature. Laura practically bangs her head again and again against the wall just to learn an itty-bitty detail that Keefe stingily shares with her. This too comes at the cost of her being pawed or humiliated in his presence. I get fed up when it is clear that the author will not let Laura stand up to the mule that is Keefe. This is one marriage that will have Laura either getting an alcoholic problem in the future or losing her voice from screaming at her husband who clearly doesn't listen or even want to.
Deborah Martin's Too Wicked For Heaven is more familiar stuff. It also has a charming, delightful scoundrel that doesn't work up my blood pressure - a refreshing welcome after that donkey Keefe. Althea Ransome is stuck in the bushes with her skirt thrown up high one evening. And who has to come rescue her - after enjoying more than an eyeful of her unmentionables - but that rogue Neville Blakely, her best friend's brother. Neville doesn't recognize her until much later, but too late - he's already besotted with this lady.
Neville is a refreshing change from the usual woman-hating mongrels. He genuinely wants to marry Althea, and he makes the first move. His fear that she will reject him because of his past leads to some complicated maneuvres on his part, but the fun is watching him and Althea bicker and banter. The author manages to write delicious sexual tension nicely woven with humor. Too Wicked For Heaven moves at a nice pace and makes a pleasant read.
Anne Stuart's Dangerous Touch features her trademark bad, remorseless hero. But while Billy Maddox is bad, heroine Sara Elder is so scared, timid, passive, and (sorry) pathetic that I feel the last thing she needs is a relationship with another domineering man. She needs a motivation seminar, not a dysfunctional affair. She is married to an older man Jacob whose idea of foreplay is to beat her while muttering prayers or something equally jolly, and she and her townsfolks are squaring off with a land tycoon baddie who want their lands. Billy is hired by this baddie to do the dirty work. Billy kills Jacob, and Sara is free to snog Billy now - right?
I don't know. Sara is weak with a capital W, and her spine practically crumbles to dust in Billy's presence. From Jacob to Billy - poor Sara. This woman could use a shopping spree and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. The weak heroine and the short length of the novella makes this romance unsatisfying and makes me go Eh?.
One Night With A Rogue is a two-out-of-four affair. All four stories are readable, but the funny ones that don't confuse "rogue" with "rock" rule the roost.
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