Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Last Rogue by Deborah Simmons (5+ stars, historical)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 5+ out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for in a book tonight. All I knew was that I wanted something that would be enjoyable without being too drawn out and intense. To say that the book I ended up choosing, Deborah Simmons' The Last Rogue, exceeded my expectations would be a considerable understatement. It was amazing! I had passed up the book in the past due to some of the unflattering reviews concerning the heroine, and I'm so glad I gave it another chance. The Last Rogue is a beautiful and at times humorous love story within a marriage of convenience. It was a very pleasant surprise to find that the romance develops without any overt misunderstandings or fights, and even the external conflict is relatively mild.

While neither of the protagonists are "tortured" per se, they both definitely have some internal obstacles to overcome. The hero is the very image of a handsome and dandified rake, whose has popularized his own cravat style. More than that, though, he is basically the class clown, a guy who is generally amiable but at the same time makes a joke out of nearly everything. He has developed this cavalier manner as a defensive mechanism towards his parents, who generally treat him in a aloof and scornful manner. The heroine, meanwhile, starts out as a classic example of a spinster even though she's only eighteen. Having grown up as the daughter of a vicar, she has grown accustom to shying away from pleasures - including even eating pastries. More significant to her character, however, is the fact that she believes she cannot come close in looks to her beautiful sister. It's the the spinster catch 22: because the heroine has a low value of her beauty, she feels little need to dress in attractive clothing or to style her hair - she thinks its pointless to put any effort into making herself more attractive. Her lack of self confidence has also led to her developing a sharp tongue as her form of a defense mechanism, which does not improve her appeal at first sight. The book starts with the couple accidentally becoming compromised; the hero is somewhat of a family friend and, in a drunken stupor, crawls into the heroine's bed by mistake. Neither character is much for the marriage, but since they don't want to cause scandal they go ahead and get married. The hero is initially disappointed in the hand that fate has dealt him, but the more time he spends with his wife the more he realizes how her terse attitude hides a beautiful woman, both on the inside and out. On the other side of the coin, the heroine struggles with the attraction she feels for the hero's personality and physical attributes. She tries to convince herself that the man is a worthless fop, and his carefree attitude does bother her at times, but for the most part she finds herself enjoying her husband's presence along with the feeling of security he provides. The relationship is built up very slowly and steadily, but Simmons makes it worth the wait. Even the sexual tension is built up gradually, and the sensual consummation of the marriage does not occur til towards the end of the novel. It was quite fun to watch the protagonists dance around each other towards the latter half of the story, with the hero desperately lusting after his wife but not wanting to scare her and the heroine lusting after her husband but not believing she is remotely attractive.

It's hard to truly do justice to The Last Rogue in a review. It was a book that developed an endearing romance without taking the reader through an artificial rollercoaster of conflicts and resolutions, a book that managed to take very stereotypical romance personas and establish considerable character growth in a genuine fashion, and a book that manged to fit in both scenes that were very emotionally touching as well as scenes that were laugh-out-loud funny . It was, quite simply, an amazing read.

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