The Kindness of a Rogue
The Kindness of a Rogue is a gothic-style traditional Regency with an unconventional hero. It sounds good, doesn’t it? And yet, I found it extremely difficult to get through.
Sara Cobb is an impoverished young woman of good birth and education. She is on her way to a remote part of Cornwall, where she has taken a position as the governess of Ileana Brashear, daughter of Sir Kenneth Brashear. She meets a roguish, scruffy local man, Grenville Martyn, who gives her a lot of dire but vague warnings about her future home, Tregallion House. She arrives, discovers that Sir Kenneth is really creepy and that Ileana, a 17-year-old being groomed for her Season, is a brat. She also learns that two previous governesses and some servant girls have vanished mysteriously from the region; and that Gren Martyn is rumored to have raped Ileana’s sister.
Sara is soon involved in trying to solve the mystery of the missing girls, all the while attempting to tame her pupil Illeana and to stay out of her boss’ clutches. She also keeps running into Gren Martyn. Gren turns out to be that most unusual of heroes, one who’s actually poor. Gren is a poacher whose brother was hanged for stealing one of Sir Kenneth’s horses; he believes that his brother was innocent and is hanging around Cornwall, poaching from Sir Kenneth’s woods and hoping to find evidence that Sir Kenneth is a villain. Eventually Gren and Sara join forces and share a few kisses.
I admit that Regency-set romances, where nearly all the men are dukes or earls, wouldn’t be hurt by a bit of change. So you’d think I’d find the fact that Gren is a poacher with no visible income or prospects to be refreshing. Not so. For me, the nobleman fantasy is all about security. Life in the 19th century was hard, especially if you didn’t have legions of servants about to wash your clothes and muck out your stables. Even the servants had a certain degree of financial stability. Gren, on the other hand, walks the fine line between poverty and disaster, and I found it impossible to see him as romantic material. On page 18 we’re treated to a description of Gren’s home, a cold one-room hovel complete with mice. I suppose some women would read that and want to roll up their sleeves and build a nice home out of it, but I was looking around for a nice earl.
It doesn’t help that Gren embodies a pet peeve of mine – a character who gives dire warnings without backing them up with actual information. Plus he’s surly and unfriendly. But basically, it was the financial thing. Sara falls in love with him and determines to marry him when he has no visible means of supporting himself or her (except for poaching, which of course was a crime).
I also did not warm up to Sara. She doesn’t do anything annoying, but she doesn’t do anything much to win my heart, either. She was just another practical governess heroine, desperate to make do against the odds. The mystery of the missing girls took up too much space, considering how not-mysterious its solution turned out to be.
The result of these things is a book that completely failed to engage my interest. I managed to get through it, but I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t reading it for review. Others might well enjoy it more than I did; but I can’t recommend any trad that takes me almost two weeks to read.