There are two kinds of books, plot-driven and character-driven. I’m still trying to figure out which Amanda McCabe’s latest, Lady Rogue is. It can’t be plot-driven, if only because there’s no actual plot. Things happen, usually very predictably, but it’s all quite meandering and aimless. But it can’t be character-driven either, because that would require interesting characters to draw the reader into the story. And there aren’t any such characters. In fact, the only reason I can come up with for following this book through to the finish is to write the review. As to why anyone else might want to do so, well, that I can’t explain. Georgina Beaumont, the Lady Rogue for whom the book is named, is a three-time widow and famed artist living in Italy. She has only come to London to visit her friend and fellow painter Lady Hollingsworth, during her friend’s confinement. She is out walking with her beloved terrier Lady Kate, when the dog decides to jump into the river. Before she can do more than cry out in alarm, a strange man jumps in after Lady Kate, and proceeds to save the soggy mutt. When he emerges, Georgina greets him warmly and he introduces himself as Alexander Kenton, the new Duke of Wayland. The two hit it off immediately.
Alex has just inherited his title after his wastrel brother (are there any other kind?) Damien gambled away the family fortune. Now he’ll have to marry for money, he realizes. The good news? Georgina is loaded, and she adores him. The bad news? Georgina is loaded and she adores him. Of course, his pride must stand in the way of their marriage – after all, there’s nothing else in the plot to do so.
Is this a book about his struggle to win her back? Um, no, all he has to do is show up. Is this a tale of star-crossed lovers trying to deny their passions? No, that would require them to have passions, at least toward each other; they have no chemistry whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the story of Alex’s pride, and the lengths he must go to overcome it? Er, no, basically, he tells Georgina off (after she oh-so-classily hands his sister cash, since his family has none), and then wakes up the next morning, knowing he was wrong. So, you may rightfully ask, what is this book about? And unfortunately, I have to answer that it’s not actually about anything. So, why should you read it? Can’t answer that one either. But my advice is: don’t.
Georgina is by far the more intriguing of the leading couple, but she’s hardly the “Lady Rogue” that the title would have us believe. First off, she’s not a lady, she’s a commoner – her only title is Mrs. Second, she’s not a rogue. She doesn’t do anything more mischievous than riding in a curricle race, which may seem outrageous – but it seems more of an anomaly than a demonstration of her true character. She says and does what she pleases (and apparently the concept of tact is a completely foreign one to her), but never does anything “roguish.” And why she’s interested in Alex is an utter mystery because….
Alex is a stick in the mud. No two ways about it, he’s a stodgy bore. He has no sense of humor whatsoever – except for a vaguely naughty remark he makes about halfway through the book which is so out-of-character it’s actually shocking – and no life at all. Which explains his interest in Georgina, who at least enjoys having a good time. He seems to find it a foreign and uncomfortable experience.
Not only do these two not have a spark between them, I had a hard time believing they had any affection for each other at all. They were nice enough, although more polite than anything, but neither one seemed particularly hung up on the other, for all the author’s attempts to make them seem so. By the end, I was certain the two would end up together, but I was hardly convinced that it was an especially important to either character, either way.
This book also displays what I notice is a growing and unfortunate trend in Regencies: a real tendency toward historical inaccuracy in speech, and an affected authenticity that is neither realistic nor convincing. For example, there are title problems, such as Alex’s mother being referred to alternately as “Lady Dorothy” and “Lady Wayland” – she could be one or the other, but not both. Or Alex’s solicitor addressing him as “my lord,” instead of “Your Grace.” In addition, ladies of the ton use lower-class slang, such as “corker”, or worse, “blunt” – as in when Alex’s mother tells him to marry Georgina because they “need the blunt.” It would be astonishingly vulgar in actual Society, and would have ruined any air of authenticity in the book, were there one. The speech is often stilted, in an attempted formality that detracts far more than it adds, and as a whole, the Regency ambience is unconvincing.
Overall, I find nothing to recommend this book in either plot, character, or atmosphere, and I recommend passing on this one for something better. Happily, that shouldn’t prove too challenging.