A Rake's Redemption
Theo Middleford, Viscount Dunnely, was once a rake – rather a tame rake, since he has always confined himself to widows, but still a rake. One night when he was surprised by a “widow’s” returning husband, he decided it was time to marry. His cousins and a good friend are all married and all very happy. It’s the Season, Theo’s ready to settle down, and his family and friends all know lots of eligible ladies.
The lady who catches Theo’s eye is Lady Sarah Mallory. Sarah is Welsh, and a member of a group called “The Six,” all of whom love music. Theo’s has friends in the Six and loves music himself. One evening at a ball, he is introduced to Sarah. They dance and she is powerfully moved by his presence. Unfortunately, Sarah’s time at the ball is ruined by one of her dance partners. She is extraordinarily beautiful and has attracted the attention of Sir Edward “Nasty Ned” Smithson, who murmurs lewd remarks about her breasts to her when they dance. A few nights later at Almack’s, Theo rescues Sarah from Smithson. She is distressed and almost insensible so he takes her to a room. While he is trying to comfort her, he thinks he hears the door open, and they might have been seen. Sarah doesn’t remember anything, but since she might be the victim of gossip, Theo determines to marry her.
Theo talks to Sarah’s father and receives his permission to offer for her. When he does, she turns him down, believing that he does not love her. Theo persuades Sarah to agree to an engagement, which she will break if he finds someone he truly loves. Theo has no intention of breaking the engagement since he has fallen in love with Sarah.
Sarah was my biggest problem with this novel. She has no idea what butterflies in the stomach mean, why she gets all these weird feelings when she is around Theo. She spends chapters worrying about this. I know that during the Regency girls were supposed to be total innocents, but really! Sarah has friends who are married, her parents love each other and she is close to her mother, so she’s never talked to any of her friends? She’s never talked to her mother? Sarah is in her 20’s and she has no idea about the relationship between husband and wife? I could accept that she might not know the mechanics of sex, but she knows nothing. I’m sorry, I tried and tried to think with a nineteenth century mindset, but that degree of innocence was too much to swallow. The Bennett girls in Pride and Prejudice knew what love is, and they actually lived in the period!! As for Theo, he was a thoroughly decent and honorable man, and a fine if slightly bland beta hero.
A Rake’s Redemption is also filled with people to the point that I needed a scorecard. The author is likely setting things up for future books. The characters, even Sarah when she’s not dithering, are very pleasant and the author’s description of ton events is vivid and interesting. But when it comes to conflict, the book falls short. It simply does not have a satisfying conflict. Dithering about butterflies in the stomach is not exactly something to keep you up all night turning the pages. Evidently the author realized this, because toward the end she threw in a short and easily-foiled abduction and a little quickly-cleared-up misunderstanding.
Susannah Carleton has the knack for creating very likable characters, and she can write wonderful descriptions. If she can get a really good conflict and add that to her strengths, I think her next book could be outstanding instead of average.