Thursday, November 10, 2011
A Beginner's Guide to Rakes
Diane Benchley, Countess of Benchley, returns to London amidst a firestorm of gossip after she and her husband had fled England for Vienna chased by creditors demanding payment for her husbands debts. When Lord Cameron dies Diane is left nearly penniless and uses her skills to convince people that he had left her all the unentailed properties and is determined to never ever be under any man's thumb again. Oliver Warren, Marquis of Haybury, hears the rumors surrounding Diane's return and decides he wants nothing to do with her. The two of them had engaged in a brief affair in Vienna and when he had found that he was falling for her he hightailed it back to London to make nice with his uncle who was threatening to leave him a bankrupt title. Diane felt betrayed and she too wants nothing to do with Oliver, until her partner in waiting passes away and the only person she can think who could help her is Oliver. Diane wants to make gambling finally work to her advantage and plans to open a club in her own home and as a dedicated gambler himself, Oliver is the perfect partner.
Oliver is not eager to help Diane, but she has information about the one time he cheated at cards and he cannot risk his reputation at the table so he agrees to loan her money to help start her venture, to teach her employees- all female- how to work at a club, and to move in upstairs but leave her alone. Diane needs to keep her distance from Oliver and even carries a gun around for protection if he should get ideas, but he quickly proves to be more than she can handle, moving around as if he owns the place, and truly becoming a partner and helper in her business, instead of the reluctant victim of her schemes. As he sees her attempt to run such a complicated establishment and try so hard to prove that she doesn't need anyone, the more he wants her to need him and he wants to make up for what he did long ago and show that he has changed and there is a future for them. Diane is terrified of how much Oliver is coming to mean to her and how much he can hurt her but it it is only with her help that she can take care of her problems; both from her family and coming from inside herself, and they can finally find love together.
Diane had admirable qualities like her ability to look after herself and her complete self-centered-ness was a change of pace from the usual romance novel heroine. That is about all I can say about her that is good because I found nothing about her to be sympathetic, likable, or worthy of anyone falling in love with her. She was cold, incredibly cold, and it was impossible for me to warm to her because she was only concerned with herself; her money, her feelings, her ability to take care of herself. The book briefly mentions how she is taking in women who have nowhere else to go, but it felt more like a desperate attempt to make her seem human and it fell far short. Oliver was definitely more human but I felt like there was nothing special about him and I could not really get into his character because I was so horrified that he was in love with such an unlikeable heroine. Their relationship started years prior so I felt like I missed out on them falling in love- like perhaps Diane had been lovable back then but I saw no evidence of this in the present.
I felt like their relationship, in the present, got off to a very poor start with the blackmail because I felt like it gave one person far too much power in the relationship. Enoch tried to make it seem like Oliver was there, eventually at least, of his own free will and that Diane's control was not so all encompassing, but I just did not get over her holding a pistol to him for much of the book. I also did not enjoy that their relationship was based on one-upping each other like they were in constant competition and trying to prove something to the other. It did not come across as the basis for a stable, or very romantic relationship. They were both supposedly incredibly attracted to each other and while their was quite a bit of lust on both their parts, the sex, when it finally occurred, was not all that impressive even while I recognized that might be because I didn't really like the characters. The side plot involving her ex brother-in-law was interesting, but after so much to do over what would happen it was settled incredibly quickly and in a rather ridiculous manner.
Rating: Two characters I disliked in a romance that was far from romantic and a side plot that was ridiculous, but the writing style was easy and fast paced.