by Elizabeth Boyle, historical (2005)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-078399-0
In This Rake Of Mine, Elizabeth Boyle's latest for the Avon's Romantic Treasures line, I have a very hard time being patient with the heroine's actions or thoughts. Miranda Mabberly or Miss Jane Porter as she goes by in the story is a most vexing character.
In the prologue, Miranda is about to be married to a man who clearly cares about her money. Tired of the Ton sniggering about her cit family having the temerity to marry into nobility as well as her future husband openly planning on ways to waste her money, she wishes that maybe she'd like to be ruined so that she doesn't have to go through the wedding. She gets her wish when she ends up being groped and kissed by a drunken Jack Tremont, rake extraordinaire, and is discovered in a most horrifyingly compromising position with him by her future mother-in-law and her own mother. She is not just shipped away to the countryside by her father once the wedding is called off - he cuts her off entirely and never even lets her know when her mother passed away.
Today, she calls herself Jane Porter. The principal at her old school, the Miss Emery's Establishment for the Education of Genteel Young Ladies, has kindly taken her in as a staff member when Miranda is cut off entirely from her family. Miranda, now Jane, teaches decorum. One day, she bumps into Jack again when Jack shows up to collect his naughty niece who is expelled from the school for kissing a stableboy. They literally bump into each other and sparks fly, although she is not sure what to feel when he clearly doesn't recognize her. Three months later, events will fall into place where Jane and her three charges from school descend to London, only to end up being stuck in Jack's place with no way to leave the place. Let me just say that the plot of this story is of the "Don't ask, just read" variety and leave it at that.
This Jack is a different man from the man who drunkenly kissed Jane all those years ago. He is now sober and determined to live life in a more respectable manner. As Jane will later learn, he isn't left unscathed by the scandal that ruined her life like she thought he was. Circumstances and a little help from his late Aunt Josphine have changed his life into what it is today. However, that doesn't mean he doesn't indulge in a little side activity that has Jane getting all huffed and puffed up about, although what that activity is is for the reader to discover as he or she read the book. I do like many aspects of Jack's character and personality but a part of me find it rather disquieting that Jack exhibits the same lack of control as he did all those years ago with Jane. In the present day of the story, he seems unable to control his libido at all. "Kiss or shag first, think later!" seems to be his mode of operation, which doesn't really go together very well with the other aspects of this so-called new and reformed Jack Tremont that Ms Boyle is trying to sell me. Jack's lack of control when his hormones are concerned, coupled with Jane's equally wretched lack of control, leads to many childish after-intimacy sulks and pouts that truly test my patience with these two.
But Miranda or Jane goes further than having no control over her hormones: she doesn't even have consistency as a character. On one hand, she is determined to think the worst of Jack in every way every time. On the other hand, she keeps thinking of how hot he is and doesn't have much willpower when it comes to succumbing to his horny-toad antics. The last only fuels her determination to dislike Jack in a petty manner even as her libido burns hotter, causing the story to spiral downwards into a painful affair of childish tantrums and juvenile "I hate you! I love you!" moments. The fact that she can keep lusting after Jack even as she keeps finding reasons to think the worst of him while trying to maintain her moral higher ground makes Jane a most unappealing hypocritical character. Things get worse when she starts jumping to conclusions and attacking Jack's character without pausing to think about matters. Jack doesn't help matters since he often doesn't say the right things at the right time. How convenient for Ms Boyle, really, when it comes to prolonging the pointless conflict in her story!
On the bright side, Jane realizes what an immature brat she is at the end of the day, although she misses out on the fact that she is also (a) hypocritical, (b) annoyingly sanctimonious, and (c) an out-of-control self-loathing nymphomaniac in the making if she doesn't clamp down on her hormonal moodswings soon.
The secondary characters are often amusing but they do little to improve matters since the heroine is on a one-idiot-show rampage in making This Rake Of Mine as nerve-grating as possible. I really don't mind Jack despite some obvious contrivances in his behavior that are clearly designed to muddle up the miscommunication issue between him and Jane further, because he often tries to do the good thing and his interactions with the secondary characters are fun to follow. Jane is very tolerable once she has her epiphany. But on the whole, This Rake Of Mine is too much of a trial on my nerves and patience thanks to the heroine for me to truly get into the story.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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