by Johanna Lindsey, historical (2010)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-9903-6
Imagine a very special episode of Gossip Girl where the characters play dress-up and pretend to be English folks in the Victorian era. That is pretty much A Rogue Of My Own in a nutshell. The language employed by the author in her characters' conversations is very modern, the characters especially the heroine display contemporary attitudes when it comes to matters like premarital sex, and the plot is frankly too silly for words.
Our 18-year old heroine Lady Rebecca Marshall has been offered the position of a maid of honor at Queen Victoria's court in Buckingham Palace. Excited at the prospect and feeling only a little intimidated by it, she moves into the Palace, only to be drawn straight into the intrigues played between the Queen's spymaster and a cunning noblewoman, both trying to best the other in the game. As the maid of honor, Rebecca is initially drafted by the Sarah Wheeler to snoop around spymaster Nigel Jennings's bedroom. She is caught by Nigel's reluctant henchman Rupert St John, the Marquis of Rochwood. She manages to lie her way out of her predicament, but Rupert now has his eye on her.
One thing leads to another, and Rebecca soon finds herself carrying the child of a man she has decided to be an asshole of the first order. She comes to this conclusion after Rupert reveals to her that he has seduced her despite thinking the worst of her, an act that she finds despicable indeed. But since she is expecting his child, she realizes that she would have to marry him in order to protect the child from the stigma of illegitimate birth. Meanwhile, Rupert keeps insisting that Rebecca is a harlot liar for reasons best left unsaid because they are so stupid, and he keeps treating her like dirt because he is convinced that she is lying about her pregnancy.
Let's start with the many problems of this book. The main problem of this book is Ms Lindsey's shockingly mediocre writing. There are abrupt switches of points of view even within a paragraph and pointless long-drawn back stories of characters that soon vanish from the story never to be seen again. It also doesn't improve matters that the so-called intrigue and spy subplot never develops into anything more than a shoddy contrivance to get Rupert to shag Rebecca while thinking the worst of her. If you are particular about historical accuracy, brace yourself, because not only do the characters here use modern phrases in their conversations, they display contemporary attitude about things like sex. Rebecca gives herself to Rupert with a casual nonchalance that doesn't ring true for someone living in her era, for example.
And of course, we have Rupert, who is supposed to be an alpha male of sorts only to end up being a colossal idiot instead. Seriously, this guy reads people wrongly and he's a terrible spy. But in a way, his continuous service makes sense because Nigel uses him more like a gigolo to seduce secrets out of women instead of an undercover person dealing with disguises and such. Ms Lindsey also makes Rupert come off as unnecessarily homophobic - Nigel is portrayed as someone who has a thing for guys, and Rupert continuously makes disparaging remarks about Nigel's sexual preferences and gets dramatically disgusted by Nigel's presence. I'd think Rupert is loathsome enough without all that unnecessary "Eeek! Someone kill that gay, quick! Kill it, kill it!" melodrama on his part.
But what saves this book for me is the fact that Ms Lindsey is aware that Rupert is a giant asshole toward Rebecca. The grovel is too short and lacks gravity in my opinion, but at least there's a grovel. Also, Rebecca gives back as good as she gets from Rupert, which makes their relationship seem less abusive in a way. I especially love how, when her maid tries to blame the other women in Rupert's past for his treatment of Rebecca, Rebecca tells her maid bluntly to stop making excuses for her husband. But still, she's in love with Rupert, which does put her in a position of weakness when it comes to dealing with him. She can stand up for herself, but she never really gets the upper hand. Ms Lindsey always gives Rupert the last word, and he's always cruel and stupidly wrong when he gets the last word.
Away from Rupert, Rebecca is a charmingly capable heroine. She is understandingly naïve when she first enters the Palace, but when she's backed into a corner, she knows how to lie convincingly to extricate herself from a sticky situation. Rebecca also is refreshingly pragmatic about her pregnancy. She listens to the choices available to her, she doesn't dwell incessantly on delusions of true love, and she is certainly aware that she deserves better than the way Rupert treats her. There is no martyrdom or Avon Romantic Boyfriend Test here.
There are some refreshing aspects to the story - Rebecca's close relationship with her mother, her mother's pragmatic attitude about the marriage which Rebecca also shares, the heroine's spine, and her refusal to listen to excuses about her husband's treatment of her. But at the same time, this book is poorly written and the incredibly stupid hero still gets the upper hand over the heroine too many times, so A Rogue Of My Own is still a problematic read at the end of the day. Because I don't come across female main characters that refuse to be martyrs or make excuses for the hero like those in this book, a part of me likes this book despite its flaws. Still, I'd suggest that you approach this one with some caution nonetheless.
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