Friday, June 15, 2012
Review: A Dangerous Compromise by Shannon Donnelly (1 star, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 1 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
It takes a creative author to come up with a unique storyline. It takes a good author to turn that same storyline into an excellent read. And Shannon Donnelly almost pulled it off, with her latest novel A Dangerous Compromise... the keyword here being "almost". I loved the concept, a naive but beautiful heroine and the rakish hero who isn't actually a rake. The plot was entertaining, and there was some great humor throughout. But then the book started turning into a love triangle, the heroine kept veering down the path of TSTL, and I started to fear things were not going to end well. They did not.
To some extent, I came to understand where both of the protagonists were coming from. The hero's always been a bit of a troublemaker, but the last nine years or so he's had to remain in the country, helping to take care of his family. Now that his father has passed away, he decides it's past time for him to have some fun in London. He's annoyed to find he feels suffocated upon reentering London, only to overhear the heroine - a resounding beauty - calling him stuffy before she's actually met him. The heroine also explains her idealistic plans of finding true love by reforming a rake, so the hero decides to enlighten the heroine - he'll pretend to be a rake to show her how silly she is being. The heroine isn't particularly a mean-spirited girl, but I wouldn't list intelligence as one of best features either. Rather, she's young, headstrong, spoiled as a result of her physical beauty, a hopeless romantic, and hopelessly naive. Her parents didn't have a happy marriage, and she's afraid of becoming unfaithful like her mother. In her mind, the only way of fixing this is to have a grand passion with her spouse... surely that will keep them happy.
So the plan is set into motion. The hero tries to mimic the rakish behavior, going as far as spreading rumors about himself and making appearances at the dens of inequity. He finds them as unappealing as the brothels, having been ruined by the attractive heroine, but it makes for a good show. He presents an air of mystery on horse rides, and invites the heroine to masquerades. The hero essentially acts as the rake with a heart of gold - saving the heroine one minute and kissing her the next - without the actually rakish history.The hero finds himself caring more and more for the heroine, but - like any rake worth his salt - is reluctant to take the step of marriage. Surely he's too young for marriage, and even if he wasn't, how can he explain the web of deceit that keeps growing? For the heroine's part, she finds the hero attractive and increasingly more interesting, but she can't tell if he has a great depth of feeling for her or not.
Things started going southward for me the moment the author makes the novel into a love triangle. The "other rake" is initially set up as the villain, someone who has a cold charm and no compunction about making the heroine uncomfortable. The heroine uses him a little bit to make the hero jealous, but it's really the hero she's interested in. But then things become a competition between the hero and rake, and the heroine just doesn't know who to choose. How does she know which one to reform?! Things eventually come to a head at the romantic conflict, with the heroine feeling predictably betrayed.
I knew A Dangerous Compromise was doomed the second I realized that the heroine was not going to undergo a single iota of character growth. Donnelly could have taken the story a number of ways, and she decided to make the heroine become even more idiotic than she started. The heroine ends up running off with the cold rake, asking to lose her virginity because she is stubbornly holding on to her ideas of passion leading to love and happiness. Further ridiculousness results, with the heroine being unable to choose between the man offering to have sex with her or the man proclaiming his love. But then the hero kisses the heroine passionately, the villainous rake decides to be nice after all, and suddenly everything works out.
I felt a number of emotions after finishing A Dangerous Compromise. Disgust and pity for the heroine, mostly. Also empathy for the hero, falling for a woman with more beauty than sense. But the one thing I most assuredly did not feel was that there was a real HEA. And if there's no satisfying ending, then why the hell am I reading a romance novel?