Review – Days of Rakes and Roses by Anna Campbell

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that I’ve been reading more and more contemporary romances lately, but I still read a lot of historical romances.  I don’t entirely know why, but historical romances are just my favorites.  (Maybe it’s the extra layer of escapism.)  If you look at my favorite romance authors list, most of them write historicals.  So last month when I was noodling around on NetGalley and I saw this book, I decided to go for it.  It’s my introduction to Anna Campbell’s writing and its blurb hints at one of my favorite romance tropes: heroine/hero struggles to overcome her/his past.  What can I say? I’m a sucker for redemption stories.

Cover image, Days of Rakes and Roses by Anna Campbell

I like the contrast between all that coral pink and the angry-teal dress, but doesn’t it look like these two are at a foam party?  Tequila shots, anyone?  Anyway…

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

Lady Lydia Rothermere has spent the past decade trying to make up for a single, youthful moment of passion. Now the image of propriety, Lydia knows her future rests on never straying outside society’s rigid rules, but hiding away the desire that runs through her is harder than she could have ever dreamed. And as she prepares for a marriage that will suit her family, but not her heart, Lydia must decide what’s more important: propriety or passion?

Simon Metcalf is a rake and adventurer. But for all his experience, nothing can compare to the kiss he stole from the captivating Lydia Rothermere ten years ago. Simon can scarcely believe he’s about to lose the one woman he’s never forgotten. The attraction between them is irresistible, yet Lydia refuses to forsake her engagement. With his heart on the line, will Simon prove that love is a risk worth taking?

This novella had a lot of promise: the writing is lovely, the heroine was interesting, and I loved the relationship between Lydia and her brother.  Unfortunately, I had a difficult time connecting with the main characters as a couple, and I kept wanting to poke the hero in the eye with a stick.  When it came time for the happily ever after, I wanted Lydia to have a better happy ending than she got.

Simon Metcalf just irritated me.  He and Lydia have a youthful indiscretion after which she is beaten by her father and he leaves the country — and stays away for a decade, sleeping with all the women, even years after Lydia’s father has died.  (To be fair, I don’t think he knows that Lydia was beaten.)  Then he finds out Lydia is getting married to a prig and he comes back to disrupt her engagement.  I think I could have forgiven him for staying away and leaving Lydia alone to deal with the repercussions of their passionate moment, but sleeping with all the nameless, faceless women in the world? Not so much.

In the end, Simon’s wild-oat-sowing is what ruined the book for me.  I suspect it’s a matter of personal taste, but I find it disturbing that readers of romance novels are supposed to accept the prior dalliances of the heroes (how else will they know what to do with their man parts, we might wonder) while expecting the chastity of the heroines.  In a story such as this, when the characters fall in love ten years before, and the heroine spends the interim living a sober, loveless life, but the hero is out plowing every field he can find, I just don’t want the characters to stumble into happily ever after as though nothing is wrong with that double standard.  Seriously: what if he brought home a social disease?!

Anyway.  I’d be interested in reading the next book in this series (featuring Lydia’s brother, I think), but I didn’t entirely enjoy this one.  Readers who aren’t as persnickety might love it.

Days of Rakes and Roses was released on June 2, 2013 as an e-book by Forever Yours.  For more information about the book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Anna Campbell, please check out her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley from Forever Yours via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*