The Care and Taming of a Rogue
Ms. Enoch’s latest book should be a lesson to anyone writing outlandish plots. It is possible, believe it or not, to temper the extreme with plain ole plausibility.
Hail the returning adventurer – Captain Bennett Wolfe is back! Except all of London thinks he’s dead, courtesy of Bennett’s colleague and fellow adventurer David Langley, who stole Bennett’s journals, rewrote him as a coward and savage, and published them under his own name. After years in the African jungle, Bennett has no pretensions to British aristocratic manners, but savage and coward he is not. So what’s a man to do when he needs to clear his name but can’t do it without stabbing his antagonist in front of Lady Jersey? Why, refine his manners and court a lady, of course.
Lady Phillipa Eddison has read all of Bennett’s books and has already figured out there’s something fishy going on, but she never expected the famed adventurer to aim his jungle-green eyes in her direction. After all, she’s not as pretty as her sister Olivia, and blurts things out like “I bathe in lemons” to aforementioned famed adventurer, so what’s he doing giving her dozens of red roses?
The answer is simply that Bennett Wolfe fell head over heels in love with Phillipa at first sight and, as a reader, it’s heavenly to encounter such emotional honesty. At some point, after the fortieth or four hundredth romance novel, you get tired of the jaded rake who never wants to marry and you relish the hero who accepts the attraction, pursues the lady with naught but a bed and marriage in mind (in that order), acts like a jackass along the way, and never denies his love for his lady. In turn, his lady whacks him on the head (figuratively) when he acts like a boor, argues with him, succumbs to his touch, and they are altogether quite delightful.
The key to that delight is having a foot in two camps, the outlandish and the mundane, and making both seem plausible. It is outlandish in the extreme that a British aristocrat such as Langley would go off adventuring, commit fraud, then embark on a kidnapping and attempt at forced marriage. And it is mundane in the extreme for a girl to fret about her looks, or for a man to court a woman and botch it. But within the framework of the story all this is plausible, and, more importantly, it is successful.
The secondary characters are a solid, if unextraordinary, cast, and special mention goes to Bennett’s uncle – who is neither black nor white but somewhere in between – and Bennett’s monkey Kero, who’s just too cute for words. And while Bennett’s friend and boss both scream “Write my book!”, they also function as characters rather than character props.
See what I mean? Plausible.
The Care and Taming of Rogue doesn’t sparkle as much as some of Ms. Enoch’s better efforts, but I found it charming and – there’s that word again – plausible. As far as I’m concerned, that’s nothing but good.