The Dutiful Rake

His Lady Mistress

The Unruly Chaperon

 
The Chivalrous Rake
by Elizabeth Rolls
(Harlequin, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0373-29404-2
***
Elizabeth Rolls has delivered a story with promise that bogs down with premises that seem to add to the length of the story but not the enjoyment of it. Jack Hamilton, a fellow first introduced in The Dutiful Rake, is the hero. Jack breaks a collarbone, keeping him from enjoying a hunting party he was planning to host with his best friend Marc, the Earl of Rutherford. As he is lamenting his injury, his distant cousin, Reverend Dr. Bramley, and his daughter, Cressida, show up on his doorstep, claiming the need for shelter. Rev. Bramley has been relieved of his post as a vicar and they have nowhere to go.

Reluctantly, Jack lets them stay, especially since he vaguely remembered the Reverend fondly. He is surprised he has a daughter, and finds her to be sharp tongued and smart, not always a combination he finds attractive. In fact, he was in the hunt for a well -mannered young girl who would bring him comfort but not really interfere with his life.

Cressida is on her best behavior, hoping she can get a reference from Jack that will allow her to gain a post as a governess. She tried having a season, but due to her low stature she only got noticed by the worthless Lord Fairbridge, whose mother looked down on her. Fairbridge ultimately tried to seduce her and make her his mistress. In the process, he accused her father, who suffers at times from dementia, of theft. They left under the threat of sending him to prison.

She is determined to gain a governess position and in the meantime, Jack hires the Reverend as his librarian, giving Cressida and her father work to catalog his rather extensive book collections. This keeps Jack and Cressida in close proximity and allows the romance to blossom.

Jack and Cressida immediately raise sparks off each other, both with verbal sparring and with unwanted attraction that they hide from each other with baiting. Yet when they are together and acting sensibly, they find they like each other and respect what the other has done. Jack is running his estate and Cressida is obviously the caretaker for her father. They are good together and the reader can feel the love developing. The dialogue is crisp and the story moves along nicely.

Just when it looks good, Rolls throws in barriers and misunderstandings. Now Jack is convinced that Cressida hates him and he is determined to marry her off, with the help of Marc and his lovely wife. Cressida is equally certain that Jack is just like the Lord Fairbridge and only wants her as a mistress or out of duty. Everyone around them can see that they love each other, but they are in misery. Fairbridge makes a final appearance and the only thing surprising about the resolution was the method of his comeuppance. Unfortunately, it was not enough to change the final 100 pages from predictability and familiarity that doomed what was a very enjoyable story to just acceptable status.

In the previous book, I thought Jack would make a good hero and I hoped he got a story of his own. His heroine is a good match for him, but sadly, The Chivalrous Rake does not live up to expectations.

--Shirley Lyons


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