Come What May

Daring the Devil

Her Scandalous Marriage

Jackson's Way

Lady Reckless

Maddie's Justice

Perfect Desire

The Perfect Seduction

The Perfect Temptation

The Rogueís Bride
by Leslie Lafoy
(St Martinís, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-34771-5
íTis the season for baking and cake-making. Does that mean that we should also put up with cookie-cutter characters, follow-the-recipe stories and undercooked plots? I would say not, and thatís why Iím not recommending The Rogueís Bride.

Tristan Townsend, the youngest son of a British aristocrat, has been seeking fortune and adventure in America and Asia. When his father and two brothers die in rather suspicious circumstances, he returns to England as the heir to the title and the impoverished estates. At a society ball, he is immediately taken by Lady Simone Tunbridge, whose clever thinking, brave actions and sensible behavior save his half-sister from an unexpected fire. Tristan uses the pretext of her friendship with his sister to pursue a relationship.

Simone has an unusual background. Sister-in-law to one duke (featured in Her Scandalous Marriage), she is the natural daughter of another one and a prostitute. Even though she grew up in a brothel, she was never interested enough in sex to try herself. That is, until she met Tristan. Not long after their first meeting, he initiates her into the pleasures of the boudoir.

Both Tristan and Simone claim they donít want anything more permanent, but it is quite clear they do. Of course, if they actually listened to themselves and talked to each other, the novel would have been over after the first fifty pages. Because that just wonít do, we get several unconnected episodes and some false obstacles thrown their way.

For one, Tristan suspects his step-mother is behind the unexpected deaths of the men in his family. He is convinced that she will harm not just him but also anyone he might marry to ensure that she will inherit everything. Hence his inconsistent behavior towards Simone. First, he wants to use her to draw his step-mother out. Then, he decides against doing so. Finally, he realizes his wicked step-mother knows already and that it really doesnít matter. He rarely explains his actions or behavior to Simone, which of course leads to a lot of misunderstanding and frustration (the latter mostly on the readerís part). To make matters worse, Tristan goes through the predictable bachelor blues: he isnít sure he wants to give up his footloose and fancy free ways for Simone, even if she is so interesting, so beautiful, so unusual, etc.

In the meantime, there is one subplot involving Tristanís discarded lover which is such an obvious plot mechanism it isnít worth mentioning and another subplot involving his younger sister. This one goes off in at least three very different directions as if the author had decided on a different storyline half-way through her novel and never went back to make the necessary changes. Although the final revelation confirms Tristanís suspicions (and I donít think Iím spoiling anything by saying this), there is also another twist that comes out of nowhere and which was probably tacked on to capture the readerís waning interest. It didnít work: it only succeeded in confirming how poorly conceived and badly edited the novel was. My advice: donít waste your time. Do some baking and cooking and holiday- making instead.

--Mary Benn

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