Devilish

The Devil's Heiress

The Dragon's Bride

Forbidden Magic

Hazard

In Praise of Younger Men

Lord of Midnight

A Most Unsuitable Man

The Rogue's Return

Secrets of the Night

The Shattered Rose

Skylark

Something Wicked

Star of Wonder

St. Raven

An Unwilling Bride

Winter Fire

 
To Rescue a Rogue
by Jo Beverley
(Signet, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-220111-0
****
I don’t think Jo Beverley can write a bad novel. She has always avoided overdone plots, frequently taking risks with her subject matter. Her first-rate story-telling skills complement her top-notch period research. Her characters come alive on the page, and her self- conscious humor shines throughout. To Rescue a Rogue keeps up with this tradition. And yet, I am slightly disappointed. It is hard to tell whether this is because I have high expectations for Beverley or because the Rogue chronicles are showing signs of fatigue.

The Rogues, for those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading about them, are a group of men who met on the playing fields of Eton and vowed to come to each other’s rescue on the battlefields of life. In the early novels of the series, Darius “Dare” Debenham was believed to have died in Waterloo. He was subsequently found in the company of the Rogue’s archenemy, Thérèse Bellaire. She had been giving him extra strong doses of opium to keep him under control. Thérèse has since been permanently removed from the Rogues’ lives, and Dare now lives with two children of unknown parentage who she had also held captive. He is struggling to overcome his addiction. Enter Mara St Bride, determined to save Dare from his self-imposed social exile.

Beverley already gave us a glimpse of this budding relationship in The Rogue’s Return. Mara is Simon St Bride’s (another Rogue) younger sister and has always had a crush on Dare. It would therefore have been easy to turn her into a self-sacrificing, ministering angel. Beverley astutely avoids this possibility by giving her flaws. When the book begins, Mara is up to mischief. Most of the subsequent twists and turns result from her original error in judgment.

Dare and Mara are heart-warming characters, but they lack the charisma of other Beverley creations. Dare’s recent traumas and current addiction don’t take over the novel, but they do significantly overshadow his former devil-may-care attitude. Mara balances her impetuous and willful nature with a generous and caring spirit and a singular devotion to her friends. And yet she doesn’t have the same presence and energy as, say, Wollstonecraftian Beth (An Unwilling Bride), curious Cressida (St Raven), outrageously daring Elf Malloren (Something Wicked), and fiercely independent Imogen of Carrisford (Dark Champion). Then again, one reader’s favorite heroine is another’s drudge.

Beverley’s signature eye for historical details and her novelistic inventiveness bring Dare and Mara’s courtship to life. Together they go on touristic excursions in London. In addition to visiting contemporary shows, which gives the novel one of its leitmotifs, they browse through books with such sensational titles as Husband Hunters!!! (with three exclamations, if you please). Another delightful part of their relationship is the gothic novel they write together. The Ghastly Ghoul of Castle Cruel pays (humorous) tribute to popular fiction of the time (think Anne Radcliffe and Jane Austen - Northanger Abbey not Pride and Prejudice).

Less lighthearted are Dare’s efforts to break his addiction. They may explain why this novel, while sensual, is much less racy and steamy than others. In addition to her other qualities, Beverley has a rare talent for writing spicy seduction scenes which are neither overly explicit or excessively purple. Regrettably, she doesn’t attain those standards here.

Most of the Rogues and their wives are in full presence. With the exception of a new child here or there, it is difficult to tell where life has taken them. In any case, they will be back. Beverley is currently working on the next installment. I have no doubt it will be top-drawer quality, but I am still crossing my fingers that she will also breathe new energy and dynamics into it.

--Mary Benn


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