Saving Sarah

A Wild Justice

Rake’s Revenge by Gail Ranstrom
(Harlequin Books, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-29331-3
Rake’s Revenge is the second book in the “Wednesday League” series.  The Wednesday League is a “group of five intrepid ladies who secretly obtained justice for wronged women.”

Afton Lovejoy’s spinster aunt was murdered and died in her arms.  The only clue left behind is a pin with a black onyx raven crest.  Aunt Henrietta was the ton’s famous fortuneteller Madame Zoe.  Afton secretly buries her aunt and poses as Madame Zoe to flush out the killer.  The ladies in the Wednesday League have given Afton one month to find the killer before reporting the murder to the police.  To avoid scandal, Henrietta kept her identity a secret by covering up with veils and disguising her voice during an appointment.  This is how Afton can pretend to be Madame Zoe.

Rob McHugh, Earl of Glenross, has recently arrived in London after suffering six months of torture in an Algiers prison.  Rob is out for revenge against Madame Zoe.  He blames her for the death of his wife and son and for his imprisonment.  During a fortune telling appointment, Madame Zoe told Rob’s wife Maeve to follow her heart, which lead Maeve to sail for Venice.  Maeve and Hamish were attacked by pirates in route to Venice and killed.  Rob was imprisoned while searching for them.

When others are murdered in a similar method, Afton realizes that her aunt’s murder was not a random event.  Rob quickly figures out that he is being setup as the murderer since a raven crest is left at each murder scene.  The raven is the Glenross crest.

Afton and Rob are immediately attracted to each other upon meeting at a ball.  Afton believes, along with all of ton society, that Rob’s marriage was a love match.  Rob has kept the truth of his marriage from everyone.  Not only did he and Maeve not love each other, but Hamish was the child of Maeve’s lover.  Rob claimed Hamish as his own without knowing who the father really was.

Once Rob finds out who Madame Zoe really is, he and Afton team up to find the killer and clear Rob’s name.

Halfway through Rake’s Revenge, I was enjoying it.  The first half was entertaining.  Afton and Rob’s interactions and conversations were enjoyable.  Afton has a quick wit.  While Afton’s plans to find her aunt’s killer seemed a bit far fetched, especially considering it’s 1818, I was willing to suspend my disbelief. 

Then the book took a left turn….  Practically everyone who Afton and Rob interviewed about the deaths was murdered too.  Murder upon murder just seemed too unbelievable.  Afton and Rob started to exemplify the phrase “one step forward and two steps back.”  Afton believes that Rob loved his wife so much that he couldn’t possibly love again.  Rob’s wife convinced him that he is too passionate and consuming.  Maeve called him “McHugh the Destroyer.”  He won’t allow himself to be with Afton because he’s afraid of consuming her.  They both want but can’t have each other.

Come on, people.  Like guys who yell at the TV during a football game expecting it to make a difference, I wanted to yell at Afton and Rob to grow up.  A smart woman knows that men and women can and do love again.  A smart man doesn’t believe what a cheating wife calls him or says about him.

Using the Wednesday League as part of the story was superfluous.  My idea of a “wronged woman” is perhaps a pregnant single woman whose man did not marry her or a woman whose husband cheated on her, but not a murder victim.  Being murdered seems a lot more serious than being “wronged.”  The Wednesday League became involved in the murder because Afton’s aunt on the other side of the family is part of the league.  Then the Wednesday League was only mentioned a couple of times. 

If you want to try Rake’s Revenge, my advice is to enjoy the first half.

--Terry Lawrence

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