The Marriage Campaign

A Scandalous Journey

Twist of Fate

 
A Rake’s Redemption
by Susannah Carleton
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-21354-8
***
Theo Middleford, Viscount Dunnley, is twenty-nine years old and ready to settle down with a wife. Now, if only he can find one who is interesting to talk with, passionate in bed, and with the temperament of a good friend. There are several candidates.

Theo is acquainted with “The Six”, a group of young ladies who have performed as a singing ensemble at Society functions. Several are already married, but among the unmarried, two offer possibilities: Lady Deborah Woodhurst and Lady Sarah Mallory. Theo plans to spend time with each of them, but it overwhelmingly attracted to Lady Sarah, the “Welsh Beauty”.

Sarah tingles and trembles whenever she dances with Theo, and she doesn’t know why. She’s twenty-two and hopes to make a good match this Season, but she’s being harassed by a baronet nicknamed “Nasty Ned” who continually seeks her out at parties and balls to whisper lewd comments in her ears. Theo rescues her from the baronet at one ball and takes her into a quiet room where she can regain her composure. Sarah ends up spilling the entire story to Theo. Theo, fearing they have been observed alone, decides to offer marriage to Sarah. In this way, he gains the wife he believes he wants, and he can protect her, too boot.

Sarah, after some initial hesitation, agrees to a trial engagement. At the end of the Season, they’ll discuss their feelings and can end it if they choose. In the meantime, Sarah and Theo will have a chance to get to know one another, and Nasty Ned will be held at bay.

That’s about it for the plot. This character-driven romance focuses on Regency strictures and mannerisms, and the author gets these right. However, there’s little in the way of a developing romance. Sarah, in particular, is more than a bit irritating. She has no idea what her feelings mean, though she’s purportedly close to her mother and, at the age of 22, ought to be a bit more self-aware. Also, the idea that she’d keep the baronet’s harassment to herself, to the point of making herself ill, didn’t wash. Her brother is a titled nobleman and could have stepped to her rescue at any time, so there was no good reason for Sarah to have kept the problem to herself. While giving Theo a reason to feel protective, it also made Sarah look like a dimwit.

Theo is a decent enough fellow, and his desire to leave the carefree life of a bachelor behind worked, for the most part. Theo and Sarah are parted soon after they declare their engagement, so part of the novel takes place in the form of letters exchanged. This was effective, though Sarah’s sudden realization that she loves Theo is more of a case of the dim bulb finally lighting up. It’s just not very interesting.

The secondary cast is huge. Be warned that, if you have had no experience with “The Six”, you’ll probably need a scorecard. That said, it would be fun to read about Theo’s friend, the Duke of Fairfax, and his attraction to Lady Deborah. Deborah has an evil twin sister, who might be used to great effect in such a story. I hope it’s in the cards.

A Rake’s Redemption is an entertaining, if fairly bland, romance. You’ll likely enjoy it, but may not remember much about it the next day.

--Cathy Sova


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