Never Trust a Rogue
Never Trust a Rogue by Olivia Drake is one of those contradictions of a book that you don’t want to put down, even as you know there are some problems with it. It was a quick and entertaining read, but after finishing it the story’s weaknesses stood out more clearly than the enjoyable parts.
Someone in London is killing servants. Dubbed the “Serpentine Strangler,” this serial killer is, as his name suggests, strangling young women that work in the homes of the nobility and leaving them along the banks of the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Heiress Lindsey Crompton, recently of India, decides to get involved when her ladies’ maid’s cousin goes missing. Doing a bit of investigating herself, she decides that the killer is none other than Thane Parker, Earl of Mansfield.
Of course, he isn’t really the killer– he’s an undercover investigator (which is why some of the circumstantial evidence points towards him). The real prime suspect is Lindsey’s most ardent suitor, an older lecherous soon-to-be-duke that her title-grasping mother is encouraging in his suit. In order to protect her, Thane “courts” her — which Lindsey readily accepts, in order to further investigate Thane’s role in the murders. Of course, the more time they spend together, the more they fall for each other.
Lindsey is one of those moderately clever heroines that uses her moderate cleverness to get herself into TSTL situations. She draws reasonable conclusions, and then does something naïve or unaccountably risky with the information, like breaking into people’s homes or stealing their vehicles. She has a certain charm in her youthful energy and sass, but she can also be sort of annoying. More than once I found myself asking, “What is she doing?” Thane was a better character, more likeable and an honorable man, but not particularly memorable.
There was a fair amount of untapped potential in this book, in terms of side characters and Lindsey’s history. Being raised in India, she certainly has an unusual background among young women in London at that time. I just wish it had been used as more than just an excuse for her free-spiritedness. I’m sure her character was shaped in more ways than just having fewer rules to follow. Similarly, there is a secret in her mother’s past that is alluded to, but not developed nearly enough. There are a few secondary characters that also could have been more fleshed out, but weren’t, including Lindsey’s Hindu maid and Thane’s teenaged ward Jocelyn.
Like I said, I read this book quickly. It wasn’t one of those C-graded books that drag and drag and drag. It was fast paced and, at its center, a fun story (aside from the whole strangled-maids part). Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough to make up for the weaknesses in characters or plotlines.