Never Trust A Rake
After having authored Signet Regencies for some time, Eileen Putman has written her first, full-length historical, Never Trust a Rake. The hero is likable and the read fast-paced, but there were some problems that I hope will be addressed in future books.
Gabriel Sinclair is looking for a virgin. Not for the usual reasons, however. He needs a lock of hair from a virgin to win a wager. When he spies a convent, wherein virgins abound, he enters in the dead of night to snip a lock of hair from a sleeping novitiate. He’s caught, the mother superior cries rape, and Gabriel is sentenced to hang.
Louisa Peabody has made it her life’s work to save women wrongly accused of crimes and sentenced to death. When she tries to prevent the hanging of a woman arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, the hooded convict she actually ends up saving is none other than our hero, Gabriel. (This event alone confounded me, since Gabriel is one big guy, hardly easy to take him for a woman even with a hood over his head.) Louisa takes him to her estate (she is a wealthy woman thanks to her late, unlamented husband), where she harbors the many women she has saved on previous occasions. In order to leave their pasts behind them, these women have all taken new names (Violet, Rose, Daisy), so Gabriel refers to them as The Flowers.
Since Louisa failed to save the right person, she determines to find a way onto the prison ship and effect the lady’s release. But she needs Gabriel’s help and offers to pay him handsomely (being a fugitive from justice, he has no ready cash), and he agrees. The remainder of the book deals with Louisa’s often unreasonable efforts to save what she perceives to be helpless women. In the course of events, she and Gabriel fall in love.
Gabriel was a tormented hero and a fine man underneath it all. There was some humor when everyone but Louisa realizes that the “helpless” woman they rescued is not what she seems. But the book was very choppy, scenes ended abruptly and new scenes started without preamble, leaving the reader wondering what happened. There are lots and lots of plot holes and loose ends left dangling and many things occur without explanation: Just how did Gabriel get into that convent, anyway? And what finally happened to Violet’s husband? Plus, too much emphasis was placed on Louisa’s horse (he’s more a hero than Gabriel). To have a horse save a character once is fine, but to have him do it twice in the same manner seemed redundant and somewhat silly.
Never Trust a Rake started out well and held great promise, but it had some real problems; only Gabriel’s likability kept me reading. Louisa is about as feisty as they get, and she and Gabriel are a good match. The potential was there for this to be a terrific read, but it fell far short. Perhaps you will enjoy it better than I.