The Rake's Revenge
I have a special fondness for Regency Romances. They are the first romances I read, and as they introduced me to the wider world of romance novels, I am always looking for a good one. Unfortunately, The Rake’s Revenge by Emily Hendrickson does not qualify.
Regina Hawthorne is a young woman of good looks, good breeding, and good fortune. She is in London for her second season and has every hope of an offer from the Marquis of Torrington when, suddenly and quite unaccountably, he proposes to another woman. Regina is left dangling, humiliated, and the object of much speculation.
Jules, the Earl of St. Aubyn is everything eligible. He is rich, titled, good-looking and a rake. He stumbles across Regina sitting despondently in the park on the morning after the betrothal announcement. Worried that she may be on the brink of doing something rash, he offers to help her. He will pay attention to her, squire her about, even take her to the wedding – all to deflect the rumors that there is something wrong with her. Thus begins a rather strange courtship.
I had lots of problems with this book, first among them that it begins on an illogical assumption. Regina is the subject of much malicious gossip and has even received one very improper offer from a former suitor as a result of being jilted. Though I know that the main assumption of every Regency Romance is that everyone must follow the rules lest he be subject to “wagging tongues,” society’s behavior in this case does not make much sense. I would think that Regina would be pitied, not shunned. I mean, sure, people might ask, “What’s wrong with her?”, but most likely they would not assume her to be loose. And no one would try to set her up as his mistress, either. The cardinal rule for men is: you only proposition women with insulting sexual offers when they are (a) powerless or (b) destitute. Regina is neither.
Then there is the distracting and confusing style of writing. I kept having to go back and clarify in order to understand what was going on, and in going back, I noticed a number of glaring inconsistencies. For example, in one scene St. Aubyn asks Regina if she will be going to the Heathering’s ball, and she says yes, she was invited because Mrs. Heathering and her mother are close. After all, many other hostesses are still shunning her. Then at the Heatherings ball we meet Mrs. Heathering and we see how awful she is. At the ball, Regina thinks how glad she is that her mother and Mrs. Heathering aren’t close friends. There are a number of these details that an editor should have caught. Additionally, we have to wait until almost halfway through the book to find out that Lord St. Aubyn is an earl, since he is only referred to generically. I would have thought this to be rather an important detail to include.
There seems to be little chemistry between Regina and St. Aubyn. She has only two reactions to him: annoyance and attraction, and she vacillates between them at an alarming rate. When she is annoyed she is downright rude to him, insulting him over and over even though he is helping her out. But does he mind? No. He thinks she is “spirited” and “refreshing.” Hendrickson keeps telling us how charming both characters are, but there seems little evidence to support this.
Finally, the secondary characters are mostly irritating or inconsistently drawn. St. Aubyn’s mother is introduced as a cold, unloving harridan, but by the end – inexplicably – she has warmed up. Pamela, Regina’s sister, is nineteen, but she acts so immaturely that one would think she is about thirteen. She is constantly blurting out things and flouncing in and out of rooms. There are two villainous characters in the book who seem largely unnecessary. Since their villany is resolved so neatly at the end, I had to wonder why they were includeded at all.
All in all, The Rake’s Revenge failed for me as a read. Hendrickson has written a number of other Regencies, but based on my experience with this one, I can’t say I’m at all tempted to search them out.