To Tempt a Rogue
A Retro Review
originally published June 20, 1999
To Tempt a Rogue concludes the trilogy telling the story of the Delaney brothers. Your tolerance for this book will depend on whether you can put up with roguish and distrustful heroes, silly dialogue tags, big misunderstandings, and plots that rely on coincidences. If you used an old-fashioned scale to weigh what works in this book against what doesn’t work, don’t get too close or you’ll get hit in the eye – the “what works” side isn’t very weighty.
Ryan Delaney is asked to find Bert Lowry’s long-lost daughter, Kitty O’Shay. By accident, Ryan ends up becoming a member of an outlaw gang. One of the members of the gang is a gangly lad. Being a typical rogue, Ryan quickly figures out that this “lad” is really a woman, but it takes him a little longer to realize that she is the woman he is looking for.
After a mishap or two and a misunderstanding or three, Ryan brings Kitty to Bert’s ranch. The outspoken Kitty feels out of place – especially when she crosses swords with Teresa, Bert’s nasty stepdaughter. Kitty falls in love with Ryan, but he’s not the marrying type. What will it take to make him change his mind?
If you’ve read other Western romances about heroines who disguise themselves as boys and ride with outlaws, you know something about what Kitty is like. She is more intelligent than most heroines of this type, and she isn’t afraid to defend herself, especially vocally. Still, Kitty does make some stupid decisions, and she has her moments of jealousy.
Ryan has more than a few moments of jealousy – this from a rogue who sleeps with a prostitute in the first chapter. Distrustful of women, he leaps to the usual misconceptions about Kitty, some of them downright silly. Their first love scene includes the incredibly romantic line, “You’re a damn virgin.” On top of all that, it takes him far too long to admit he’s in love.
The secondary characters are forgettable, if not outright stereotypes. Bert’s stepdaughter spends most of the book trying to get Ryan for herself, badmouthing Kitty, and trying to get Bert’s money for herself. She calls Kitty a “whore” and then accuses Kitty of being foul-mouthed. (Huh?) Yet Bert remains oblivious to her true character for most of the book, and Kitty is too forgiving.
The plot relies on coincidences – tremendous ones. For example, Ryan just happens to bump into Kitty’s gang not once but twice. Just as the plot seems contrived, the dialogue often sounds artificial – real people don’t talk to each other this way. The dialogue tags are so overdone they distract the reader. On one page, dialogue was snarled, sniffed, and even smirked. How do you smirk a line of dialogue? And let’s not forget the classic line, “Damn you,” she hissed. How do you hiss a sentence without sibilants?
Also, one love scene mentions the pebble of flesh at her entrance. While the pebble reference is certainly an interesting change from the usual nubbin, the author appears to have forgotten basic anatomy. If Ryan is expecting to find the aforementioned pebble at her “entrance,” he’s looking in vain.
Though this book takes place in the West, the setting never becomes a part of the story. The American West was a vibrant and important part of our history, and it deserves better. If you have a hankering for a really good Western romance, this is not the place to start.