The Ruthless Charmer
by Julia London, historical (2000)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23562-6


A bit of background information: The Ruthless Charmer is book two of the series The Rogues Of Regent Street, with book one being The Dangerous Gentleman. It's about a few friends who are supposed to be debauched rakes of the first order getting shackled to London bluestockings/hellion missies.

Perhaps other readers may find it otherwise, but to me, The Ruthless Charmer is 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 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 afterwards.

The hero wooes and wooes, the heroine succumbs and then subject me to her painful hand-wringing and 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 a single moment that this romance is even real in fictitious context. Not when the heroine's repertoire consists of melting at first touch - after the obligatory comebacks to prove she's "feitsy" - 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? I don't think so.

Why her? Because she said no to him? Is that why he is so persistent? Only in by-the-book romance novels, I say. 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?

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 the virtue of Strong Will and 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.

Rating: 58


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