His Rebellious Lass
His Rebellious Lass is classically tropey as the day is long. But the problem with its heavy lean on traditional romance clichés is that it never manages to be a compelling read on its own.
Notorious rake Donald, Marquess of Campbell – known as Cam to his friends – receives a note from his land steward instructing him to cut short his trip to a parliamentary session in London and make haste back to the family seat in Cumberland to “pick up an item of extreme import”. Cam has no idea what his steward means; he’s lived alone at the county seat since his mean-spirited father died, and his two younger sisters are married with families of their own. But the item in question turns out not to be an object; instead, he’s inherited a red-headed Scottish lass named Bridget.
Lady Bridget is a feisty, independent type. The only thing she wants from Cam is her inheritance and some Scottish whisky, in reverse order. Cam doesn’t want the responsibility of sheltering her either, but he’s stuck with her until he can get to his solicitor; her father was Cam’s loathsome father’s friend, and her father refused to change his will no matter how often his own solicitor pleaded with him. Even though Bridget is twenty-one, the guardianship is supposed to last until she’s twenty-three, and only if she passes her twenty-third birthday unmarried will she receive her inheritance. She hopes Cam will dissolve the agreement because she has immediate plans for the money – to support domestic violence victims in the name of her murdered ex-schoolmate by creating a shelter.
Cam, meanwhile, thinks the quickest way to get back to London and his rakish ways is to marry Bridget off posthaste and have her husband redirect the appropriate funds. That means taking her to the capital and many dinners with his colleagues and London acquaintances. Whenever Bridget gets close to a man, naturally, Cam grows jealous. But when the man who murdered Bridget’s dear friend resurfaces, can Cam and Bridget tamp down their burgeoning attraction and entrap him?
His Rebellious Lass is heavily steeped in repetitive clichés – count them as I go. Cam had an abusive dad and thus must Never Marry; he does legislative things; he has three friends who are clear sequel bait. Bridget is an orphan whose toughness extends to whisky-tippling, breeches-wearing, hunting, horse racing and fits of anger, plus she’s credulous enough to wander away with Cam’s rakish friends into dark parts of the estate so they can paw at her charms and Cam can quasi-rescue her. Her near TSTL status extends to her charitable leanings, and she rushes around the planning of it all, occasionally sheepishly admitting to Cam she hadn’t thought ahead of what a large, sweeping project she’s undertaken. Naturally she has no actual organizational talent and needs Cam to guide her hand. I only really enjoyed Bridget when she was showing flashes of humor.
The romance is classic love-hate stuff. Bridget jumps down Cam’s throat the second he meets her and he behaves in a bossy, autocratic and jealous manner, but their various parts tighten and flutter, thus love is telegraphed. They spar over the notion of women being fully autonomous beings but are attracted to one another. He objects to the sight of her wearing (gasp!) spectacles as she reads about the history of orangutans. Rinse, repeat.
I’ve never seen a romance that hates the concept of marriage as much as this one does, and I half hoped the two of them wouldn’t settle down into a ‘proper’ respectable arrangement. The way Cam manipulates Bridget into accepting marriage as a way of achieving happiness is slimy (“You’re going to be all alone without a family and your friends will always put their children and husbands first!” is no successful argument when her family dumped her in a boarding school and her closest relative is a distant cousin.), and leveraging her desire to create the shelter to force her hand is awful of him.
Worse, there are research failures all over the book. Bridget, two weeks out from her father’s death, re-enters society to husband hunt and doesn’t dress in mourning garb once.
While it attempts to entertain, His Rebellious Lass falls afoul of clichés and boring plot choices. I sadly cannot recommend it.
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