Recently I read two books in a row which had similar themes. In each book we have a deceptive hero who is desperate to trick our heroine into marriage. Authors, pull up a chair. Let’s think about timing. It is the timing of the, “I know what you are up to, you cad!” moment — the moment the heroine discovers the hero’s chicanery that makes alllll the difference between those two books. Because of the timing/placement of the “OMG” moment I liked one book a lot and was very irritated with the other.
Let’s start with Miranda Neville‘s The Ruin of a Rogue. Somehow I missed this book when it was first published in 2013. I don’t know how I did, but I did. Anyway, Marcus, our hero, is a con artist in need of money. Of course, you know that means he must find himself a rich heiress, because that’s what heroes do in Romanceland. Enter Anne Brotherton, a kind, smart, plain heroine. He has studied her, he knows what she likes, he knows her hobbies, she is an expert on antiquities, so he studies them in order to talk to her. He even hires someone to nearly run her down with a cart in order to jump out and save her; then he can appear heroic in her eyes. Everything he does is to con her into marriage. He is a Sneaky-Pete.
However, Anne is no dummy. She’s heard the rumors and she’s been warned away from him by her friends. Her big problem — she finds him attractive and starts to fall for him. Then she overhears a conversation between him and one of his friends, and she is the subject of that conversation. So, she’s on to his games — she decides to take revenge. Her revenge is rather funny. She becomes a snot, has him take her places she knows he can’t afford. The places she picks are downright boring, so boring he’s grinding his teeth and she’s having a high-ho time making his life miserable. Just as I’m enjoying all the hoops Anne makes Marcus jump through, the story takes a turn — Marcus inherits an estate, now he no longer needs Anne. So, he’s off, leaving Anne and her revenge behind.
While Marcus is off in the countryside finding purpose in his life, Anne decides she must be ruined. Who better than Marcus? She follows him to the countryside determined to be ruined by him. And the story takes another delightful turn. I liked this story a lot. Marcus’ caddish behavior was found out in the beginning of the book, giving our couple time to adjust, grow and even grovel. There’s plenty of humor. Marcus and Anne were a great couple. Most importantly, the reader is in on Marcus’ behavior right from the start. Because the revelation of Marcus’ nefarious scheme was in the beginning of the book, both Anne and the reader have time to forgive Marcus. Timing, timing, timing.
Now on to The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn. In my opinion this book is a terrific example of a very flawed “I know what you did” moment.
You know I have always been fond of Julia Quinn’s books. I know what I’m getting when I open one and usually I can depend on a chuckle or two happening throughout (even with all the anachronisms.) The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy was no different; there was plenty of humor and I even had a giggle moment when our heroine, Iris Smythe-Smith, reads a gothic/romance novel out loud to Richard. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that all the funny, laugh-out-loud moments in the world cannot save a book if the other “stuff” doesn’t work. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not like this story, and the main reason for this is our hero, Sir Richard Kenworthy.
Richard, like Marcus from The Ruin of a Rogue, is desperate to get married. His behavior is also deceptive, dishonest, unprincipled. In short, he is a stinking cad. He does every slimy thing that he can to trick our heroine into marriage — and he succeeds. Here is one of my bigggg problems with this book. Richard plays all kinds of games, even seduction (up to a point). There are a couple of hand-jive moments but never a big bang finish. He withdraws, and being the typical “step all over me” heroine, Iris thinks the problem is with herself. Supposedly, Iris has a temper, and I kept waiting for it, but not until almost the very end do we ever see it.
According to my electronic device this book was 246 pages long, and four of those pages were dedicated to author stuff. It isn’t until page 172 that we and Iris find out why Richard was so desperate. And, that is the biggest problem with me. There was not enough time for Richard to redeem himself — in my eyes he was a Snidely Whiplash, just not as funny. Besides that, some of the time that was really really needed to make Richard into a hero was dedicated to a nasty fighting-fit-throwing and all round unpleasant business between Iris and Richard’s sister Fleur.
So, timing is paramount to a good romance book. If a hero is going to be a bonehead, he needs time to turn that around and become a knight in shining armor. Even with the numerous fun moments, this book was a big disappointment. Maybe Iris was able to forgive Richard his boorish behavior, but this reader wasn’t.
Time/Place: 1825 England