Kiss from a Rogue
Good-hearted, virtuous but poor heroine? Check. Roguish man of good family in search of a purpose for his life? Check. Roguish but somehow charming villagers and/or servants? Check. Well, many of the usual Regency romanceland features are certainly present here, together with a plot that revolves around smuggling (as opposed to spying – the other Regency standby). As you may guess, this novel is pretty much a standard, ordinary Regency historical. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t exactly pull ahead of the pack either.
As the novel opens, Tony Sinclair has just awoken from the drunken stupor into which he fell following his older brother’s wedding. Now that his brother is home to claim the title and the estates, Tony isn’t quite sure what to do with the rest of his life. He sets out for the coast with a friend and, after seeing the effect his presence has on a barmaid, he decides instantly that he is meant to be a rake. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out where that mental leap came from, you’re not alone. That was my reaction, too.
The first person Tony sees after making this momentously illogical pronouncement is local widow Sylvia Montgomery. Though he does not know her identity, Tony is determined that she shall be the first of his many conquests in his new life as a rake. Sylvia, of course, has her own opinions and her initial opinion of Tony is not entirely favorable. Far from being swept off her feet, Sylvia just isn’t interested.
Sylvia was left in poverty by her husband and lives in a village devastated as a result of the war with France and losses from a terrible storm. The villagers, who look up to Sylvia, have become small-scale smugglers simply to make ends meet. In his pursuit of Sylvia, Tony finds himself pulled into the smuggling ring and not only staying quiet about the smuggling, but staying close by Sylvia herself. As the two find themselves forced to work together, a sweet romance blossoms.
Tony and Sylvia’s time working together and eventual courtship flowed nicely and the story was basically a sweet one. The initial set-up was, frankly, rather silly, but I did find myself enjoying the book more as it moved along. Despite Tony’s ridiculous pronouncement of “Oh, I think I’ll be a rake since I don’t know what else to do with my life”, he actually turns out to be a rather decent person. Still, even though Tony and Sylvia are likable enough, they are also a touch forgettable. It is hard for the reader to feel close to the main couple and, as a result, the book drags a little. The average Avon romance should not take me an entire week to plow through, but this one did.
Karr’s handling of the smuggling subplot is, likewise, rather mixed. On the one hand, she delves more deeply into the economic realities that forced coastal villagers to turn to smuggling than most historical romance authors I have read. However, creating villagers who are, on the whole, so totally good and honorable while being surrounded on all sides by evil gangs and by those who would take advantage of them seemed a bit contrived. I can understand the need to have a good and heroic hero and heroine, but the portrayal of the village as the most wholesome, folksy smugglers on earth just did not ring true. A few of the secondary characters were likable, but as a group, the village has a rather saccherine feel.
If you are a true devotee of the Regency lite subgenre, this book is an unobjectionable enough read. However, it just does not spark to life or capture the imagination the way the best historical romances do. The author’s style is likable, but there is just not enough here to make this more than a standard-issue Avon Regency historical or to garner a recommendation.