I know you read and memorize every word I write here, so you know I was a bit ambivalent about Days of Rakes and Roses, my introduction to Anna Campbell’s writing. Don’t get me wrong: the writing was good, but I had some issues with the hero and with the book’s apparent acceptance of the double standard that allows men to screw any woman who doesn’t move faster but expects women to sit around chaste (and bored) until such time as a man sees fit to give them something to do (if you know what I mean). One of my book buddies suggested I try out some of Campbell’s earlier books, especially Untouched. I did, and I loved. So I was very pleased to see A Rake’s Midnight Kiss come up on NetGalley, and I rushed to request it.
The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
It Takes A Lady
Brilliant scholar Genevieve Barrett knows how to keep a secret. Her identity as the author of her father’s academic articles has always been her greatest deception—until a charming housebreaker tries to steal the mysterious Harmsworth Jewel from her. She doesn’t reveal that she recognizes her father’s devastatingly handsome new student as the thief himself. For Genevieve, this will be the most seductive secret of all…
To Catch A Thief
Sir Richard Harmsworth has been living a lie, maintaining a rakish façade to show society that he doesn’t care about his status as a bastard. Yet long haunted by his unknown father’s identity, Richard believes the Harmsworth Jewel will confirm his claim as the rightful heir. But when Richard sets out to seduce the bookworm who possesses the stone, he instead falls for its beautiful owner. But even as she steals Richard’s heart, Genevieve will be in greater danger than her coveted treasure…
There was one (big) thing that I took exception to in this book, but there were lots and lots things that I liked about it. I’ll start with that list, because it’s a lot less ranty.
- Genevieve is a scholar, and her expertise, while problematic for her relationship with her father, is acknowledged by all the menfolk in the book. It’s particularly telling that Sr Richard notices and values Genevieve’s scholarship. (That was one of the things I liked best about him, through the book’s first half.)
- Genevieve and her father have a difficult relationship, and I liked how Campbell wasn’t afraid to make it messy. Genevieve is conflicted by her simultaneous love for and disgust with her father. Her father’s not all that conflicted in return, but I found him rather believable as a benevolent villain suffering from a case of narcissism.
- After years of being used by her father, Genevieve determines to break free and support herself on her scholarship. Further, she finds a publisher and has her future all lined up. I loved how self-sustaining Genevieve is.
- The chemistry between Sir Richard and Genevieve was great.
- Genevieve is a fantastic character, and I grew to appreciate Sir Richard. I thought it was neat how my experience as a reader mirrored Richard’s development as a character — as he displayed and thereby discovered his hidden depths, I transitioned from thinking him a useless douche to a nuanced and interesting character.
- The second half of the book was very well done.
That last one implies that the first half was not so well done, but that’s not quite it. The book is well crafted, well plotted, nicely paced, and interesting throughout, but I had a couple hangups that put a damper on my ability to enjoy the first half. They are:
- Sir Richard first meets Genevieve when he breaks into her home in the middle of the night to scope out the Harmsworth Jewel. He scares the bejesus out of her but leaves without stealing the jewel or harming her. Then he places himself in her family’s home (as a pupil to her father) and proceeds to run through all the ways he can use Genevieve to get control over the jewel. He could seduce her — not ruin her, mind, just play with her feelings a bit — in order to convince her to sell it, for example. That’s awesome. Also, super heroic.
- Fairly early on, Genevieve figures out that “Christopher Evans” is the thief, but she doesn’t out him because, quite frankly, she doesn’t trust anyone (who would, in her position?). She certainly doesn’t trust him, but that doesn’t stop her from falling prey to his seductions. I had a hard time accepting the idea that Genevieve would fool around with a guy that she was fairly certain was trying to screw her over in other ways.
- There were a few too many mentions of how odd it is that “Christopher Evans,” a handsome and elegant man, has a nondescript mutt for a dog.
But my biggest issue with the book involves the first kiss scene. Richard as Christopher stumbles upon Genevieve on a midnight skinny dip and concludes that he just has to see her naked. So he takes her towel and hides near where she stashed her clothes so that he can be sure to get more than a glance. Genevieve feels violated by Richard’s lack of respect for her privacy, but he ends up getting rewarded by a kiss. The narration makes it clear that Richard’s actions are presumptuous and a little nefarious — he doesn’t have the right to see her naked, after all, even though he behaves as if he does — but Genevieve’s response is self-directed anger and mortification. Richard couldn’t help himself… he’s a man! But Genevieve should have known better, so it’s all her fault that she was violated by “Christopher” the peeper. Then Richard manipulates Genevieve into a kiss, and all of his presumption is rewarded. The benefit to Genevieve? Her sanctuary from the world is ruined. Awesome.
I’ll be honest.. I was sorely tempted to stop reading when I got to the end of that scene. I’m glad I kept going because Richard’s redemption is rather well done, and the second half of the story was gripping, interesting, and rewarding. But is it too much for me to hope for a book not to poke me in the eye with historically (and currently) accurate misogyny that gets rewarded by the heroine and narrative? Oy.
Anyway, the bottom line is that lovers of historical romance will enjoy this one, but only if they aren’t wearing feminist pants while reading the book.
A Rake’s Midnight Kiss was released on August 27, 2013 as a mass-market and e-book by Forever, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. For more information on the book, click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads. If you’re curious about Anna Campbell, go check out her website!
*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*