When a Rake Falls
When I write a negative review, I try to find something positive to say, even though I didn’t enjoy the book as a whole. I have to admit, I struggled to do that with When a Rake Falls, and the best I can come up with is to say that it made a change to read about a hero who isn’t traumatised by a tragic past, and the best way I can think of to sum up the book is to say that it’s… Mostly Harmless.
Our hero, Lord Boyce Parker is the youngest of the eight sons of the Marquess of Sutcliffe. When Boyce edited and published a rather racy book written by a friend, his father disapproved to such an extent that he cut him in public – leaving his son almost pathetically desperate to regain his approbation. Boyce decides that the way to do this is to enter a contest which requires him to travel to Paris and along the way perform at least outstanding feat that proves him among the flower of British manhood along the way.
Lord Boyce’s brilliant idea whereby he will impress Dad is that he will travel by balloon, which will enable him to prove himself not only courageous, but intelligent and desirous of paving the way for new technology. He has arranged to travel with Mr Mountfloy, a scientist who is conducting experiments into weather conditions, and his daughter, Eve, but when he is hustled aboard with only Eve for company he is suspicious and soon learns that Moutnfloy had no intention of flying to Paris, and had instead instructed Eve to make take off so unpleasant as to make Boyce want to land as soon as possible. Undeterred, he persuades Eve to continue the journey and persuades her to allow him to help with her experiments.
Eve Mountfloy has worked alongside her father since the deaths of her mother and elder brother, a naval hero. She knows her father only turned to her for help in his work because she there was no alternative, and he believes that as a woman, she cannot possibly have the strength of mind and intelligence necessary for scientific study. In fact, towards the end of the book, he belittles her so badly and so often that I could happily have done him serious harm.
Even so, Eve dreams of making a name for herself in the scientific establishment, hoping to making a great discovery for the benefit of mankind. But this is 1820, and she should have had about as much chance of being allowed to present a scientific paper to the Royal Society as a snowball has of not making a puddle in Hell. I was immediately reminded of the heroine of Courtney Milan’s The Countess Conspiracy which is set in 1867 – who has to have her male friend present her work as his in order for it to be taken seriously. By stark contrast, Eve gets – with Boyce’s help – to deliver her speech without being completely ridiculed almost fifty years earlier. I just couldn’t buy it.
In fact, there are so many problems with this book, that it would take longer than the space of this review to list them. Quite frankly, I was bored by around a quarter of the way through, and things got worse, not better. The writing is choppy and very immature, the dialogue is stodgy and feels forced, the characterisation is thin to say the least and the romance – unlike the balloon – never gets off the ground. I imagine the characters and their utterances are meant to be quirky and funny, but quite honestly, most of the time they’re just ridiculous:
“Please forgive me. I forgot about your injury.” She paused. “What are you doing here? You should be in bed. I apologize, I really do, but numerous kisses will not assist us in finding our way out of the woods.”
Numerous kisses? Who on earth talks like that?
“I’m sure he would never even consider a woman like me. What a silly notion.”
“Yes, I forgot for a moment that he is an aristocrat from such a distinguished family. Gentlemen of his consequence would never consider you as a potential spouse.”
(Said by the heroine’s would be fiancé! If I were her, I’d have started running by now.)
Boyce is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky sort of chap, which, as I said before, is quite refreshing, but the trouble is that there is nothing else to him. There are heroes in historical romances who are largely unencumbered by emotional bagagge and angst, but they are interesting in other ways, or are more strongly characterised. Boyce is sweet, but came across as a bit dim and I got tired of his relentless “niceness” very quickly.
From reading the single – atrocious – sex scene in the book, it would seem that Ms Orr isn’t at all comfortable writing them. If that’s the case, then my advice for future books would be – don’t do it again. Ever. I’ve said in other reviews that there are some writers who can do more with a brush of the hand or the anticipation before a kiss than others can do with a full blown sex scene – but unfortunately, Ms Orr isn’t one of those either, as all the kisses, touches and longing glances between Boyce and Eve are utterly without heat. In fact, there’s no romantic chemistry between them at all, and this particular scene seems to have been chucked in at random because it’s expected, because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
It’ll come as no surprise when I say I’m not going to recommend When a Rake Falls. There are plenty of other good books out there to read, so move along folks – there’s nothing to see here.