Dancing With A Rogue
Dancing with A Rogue was a difficult book for me to read and, frankly, this is a difficult review to write. Normally when a book doesn’t quite work for me, I can pinpoint exactly what caused that reaction. But, surprisingly, though this story failed me to engage to the point that picking it up was harder each and every time, I’m at a loss as to why.
On the surface, Potter is a fine writer. Her characters are real people and her story is well constructed. But I think my problem boils down to the fact that while there’s nothing glaringly wrong here, there’s also nothing glaringly right. Both her revenge story and her two major characters are familiar to those of us who regularly read historical romances and there’s simply nothing I can find to make this one stand out from the crowd.
Gabriel Manning is determined to avenge his father’s ruin and eventual suicide by calling to account the men he deems responsible. A successful ship’s captain, the 33-year-old Gabriel was raised in America from the age of 11. He’s happy with his life, but when he unexpectedly inherits an English title, he returns to England with an elaborate scheme using both his new title and well-earned money to bring down his father’s enemies.
Beautiful actress Merry Anders shares the same goal. Her fame as beautiful “French” actress Monique Fremont is the perfect set-up for the young woman to come to London and entice chief bad guy the Earl of Stanhope into her web. Her reason for revenge is simple: Her late mother was cruelly abandoned by Stanhope, Merry’s biological father, and left to raise their daughter in poverty.
Gabriel’s plan hinges on the fact that Stanhope and London society view him as an uncivilized American lout with too much money. Merry also must keep up her ruse as a sophisticated actress coldly evaluating the many men who seek to offer her protection before she agrees to become the mistress of the winner. Falling in with Merry’s plan, Stanhope’s competitive spirit is aroused.
Of course, since neither knows the other’s true motives, both perceive the other as fraternizing with the enemy. Still, it doesn’t take too too long for Merry to see through Gabriel’s disguise and for Gabriel to see though Merry’s. Clearly, the two are drawn to each other, but with so many secrets between them and with each irrevocably set on achieving vengeance for their parents, the path they travel to both love and revenge is a far from a smooth one.
What elevates this book slightly above the average is Potter’s writing – decidedly not her plotting. I’ve met these characters before and I simply never worked up the slightest interest in the revenge plot line since this story, in various iterations, has been told many, many times before. Regretfully, I was also pulled out of the story by some very 2003-like political correctness. For instance, Gabriel is so egalitarian that he takes the family of his manservant on a public outing and Merry, who is best-est friends with her maid Dani, takes offense when anybody treats the maid even remotely like a servant. Okay, considering their circumstances and backgrounds, I’ll accept that both of these characters could conceivably have felt this way, but a small exchange between Gabriel and his manservant’s sister completely crossed the PC line. When the young, largely self-educated maid expresses a desire to travel to America (though she calls our country “the colonies”) to see the Indians, Gabriel replies that “some of them are very fierce”. The maid answers – in 1815, mind you: “But do they not have reason?” Gabriel, of course, agrees. Puh-lease! Hey, this is a sentiment with which we’d all agree today, but not only is it impossible for me to accept that a young Regency-era English woman might have espoused this view, it’s equally impossible to believe that a wealthy and successful American ship’s captain would share it.
But, once again, Potter’s writing is the main attraction here. She has a way with a scene and a knack for dialogue that amounted to the only enjoyment I was able to pull from the book. There is so much awkward writing out there – something you can’t fail to recognize when you see it – that it is always a pleasure to read a writer whose words flow smoothly. Still, I read romance to escape into a great story and this one, for me at any rate, just didn’t cut it.
If you find yourself starved for a dose of Regency-era society, Dancing with A Rogue could fit the bill. Even though the book is written well, the story is nothing new. Readers who decide to give it a try may ask themselves: “Haven’t I read this one before?”