Redeeming the Roguish Rake by Liz Tyner

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The scoundrel of Society
…has compromised the Vicar’s daughter!

When scandalous Fenton Foxworthy is beaten and left for dead, he’s rescued by demure vicar’s daughter Rebecca Whitelow. Fox is a cynical rake whose outrageous propositions are the talk of the ton—but his injuries are so great that Rebecca mistakes him for the new village Vicar! Too late, Rebecca realises her error…she’s been compromised into a hasty marriage!

Rating: D+

Liz Tyner’s Redeeming the Roguish Rake treads the well-worn path of rakish hero redeemed by love – in this case, the love of a vicar’s daughter.  It’s a trope I generally enjoy, as it’s always fun to watch the world-weary hero falling head-over-heels for the last woman he’d ever have expected to fall for, and the proper young lady entertaining improper thoughts about a man she should, by rights, despise.  The book gets off to a strong start when our hero, Fenton Foxworthy, a devil-may-care young man who has a smirk and a glib remark for everyone and a penchant for proposing to other men’s wives, is beaten up and left for dead while on a journey into the country to visit his father.  Luckily for him, he is found by the daughter of the local vicar who arranges for him to be taken to the vicarage where she can tend him.

Fox’s injuries are serious.  The author never goes into specific detail, other than to tell us that his face has been particularly badly beaten, to such an extent that when he initially recovers consciousness, it’s difficult for him to speak because his jaw is so painful.  His inability to tell the vicar and his daughter who he is leads to a misapprehension when they assume Fox must be the new vicar who is coming to take over the parish at the behest of the earl (Fox’s father).  The Reverend Whitelow is advancing in years and is being encouraged to take a pension, and knowing that a younger man is coming to replace him, has hopes that the new vicar will marry Rebecca and ensure her future comfort and safety.

It’s some time before Fox can speak, and the author instead treats us to his inner monologue, which is often quite funny, as he listens to the vicar and Rebecca completely misconstruing his attempts at communication.  In the end, he decides to give up and go along with their supposition that he’s a vicar – they’ll find out the truth soon enough and he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

Fox gradually regains his speech, although to start with it’s hesitant and painful.  The author nicely develops the growing relationship between him and Rebecca as Fox realises that the vicar’s daughter he’d thought rather plain is not plain at all, and finds himself drawn to her goodness.  Rebecca – who had been rather resigned to marrying the ‘new vicar’ – discovers that she actually likes him and, in spite of his lumpy, bruised face, that she finds him quite attractive.  Things come to a head when Rebecca’s father finds them embracing each other – at which point Fox does the honourable thing and proposes – for the first time in his life, to a woman who is actually free to marry him.

This happens at around a quarter of the way through the book, but after this things go off the rails.  Rebecca discovers Fox’s identity shortly afterwards when his father comes looking for the ‘imposter’ who is passing himself off as the new vicar.  Naturally she and her father are horrified and she tries to cry off, but for some reason I couldn’t quite fathom, Fox insists he wants to go ahead with the marriage.  His father is delighted – he’s long been worried about his wastrel son and on at him to settle down; having known Rebecca since she was a child, he believes her steadying influence is just what Fox needs and is pleased with his choice, in spite of their difference in social station.

Rebecca’s father, however, is not at all happy at the thought of handing his daughter over to a man whose name is always in the newspapers thanks to some exploit or other and tries to dissuade her.  But Rebecca believes – I’m not quite sure why, but she seems to take an offhand comment by the earl to mean he’ll throw her father out otherwise –  that marrying Fox will mean she can ensure that her father will always have a roof over his head, and so, she agrees to the marriage.

From here on in, I couldn’t work out what characters motivations were or what was happening between them.  It’s clear that Rebecca is uncomfortable with her new station, worries she doesn’t fit in and doesn’t like having nothing to do all day.  Her life as a vicar’s daughter saw her constantly on the go, visiting parishioners, caring for the sick, helping her father – and now she is at a loose end. Fox seems annoyed at her for being worried, but is more intent on finding the men who attacked him and exacting revenge – something he is also aware his new wife is not in favour of. Fox’s sense of self-worth seems very much bound up in his looks; his parents are estranged and live separately; he lost his older sister to childbirth a few years back and it seems the family has not recovered from it … there are interesting plot points thrown in, but there is little or no explanation as to how these relate to the story being told or its characters.  I don’t like being hit over the head with information, but similarly, I don’t like allusions so vague that trying to work out where and how they fit takes me completely out of the story, which happened frequently.  Fox and Rebecca have these odd, roundabout conversations that don’t make sense – they never seem to say anything directly about how they feel, and it’s not until quite late on that Fox realises Rebecca is really quite unwell and takes her back to the country to stay with her father, while he visits the earl and rides over to the vicarage to spend his days with his wife.  The story starts to make more sense at this point, but we’re almost at the end, and the ILYs which are exchanged just before that come out of nowhere and feel as though the author had suddenly realised she needed to put them in somewhere before writing ‘The End’.

I also couldn’t get much of a handle on the characters.  Fox is perhaps the better defined of the two, but Rebecca is mostly an enigma and I just couldn’t warm to her.  She’s rather starchy and prim, with nothing much, other than a dedication to duty, to recommend her.  She doesn’t seem to have a sense of humour – which is a huge problem given that Fox is the sort of man with a quip for every occasion and who enjoys a good laugh – and all she seems to do is mope in silence.  There’s no chemistry between them, and given they are so severely mis-matched, their HEA is unbelievable.

In general, I’m a fan of Mills & Boon/Harlequin Historicals and have read and reviewed a number of very good ones over the past few years.  But one has to take the rough with the smooth, and I’m afraid Redeeming the Roguish Rake definitely falls into the ‘rough’ category.


The Wallflower Duchess by Liz Tyner

This title may be purchased from Amazon

No other woman will do for the determined duke…

To Lily Hightower, Edge is still the adventurous boy she grew up with, even though he’s now become the formidable Duke of Edgeworth. So when he doesn’t propose to her sister as everyone expects, shy Lily marches right up to him to ask why…

Wallflower Lily is amazed to learn that she is the duke’s true choice. She’s hiding a secret that, if he found out, could threaten everything. But Lily is the duchess of his dreams – and Edge is determined to make her his!

Rating: C

Being a fan of friends-to-lovers stories, The Wallflower Duchess sounded as though it would be right up my alley; a fairly simple story about two long-time friends and neighbours starting to see each other in a new light and falling in love. That is, in essence, exactly what it is, but I was less than enthralled by the execution; the writing is quite disjointed in places and the central characters are barely two-dimensional. Neither of them made much of an impression on me, making it impossible for me to really get invested in their rather lukewarm romance.

Ever since he was old enough to understand, Lord Lionel, heir to the Duke of Edgeworth, knew what it meant to be a duke. He has been raised to be mindful of his responsibilities for those who depend on him; to display impeccable manners and good breeding at all times – in short, to be perfect. But after he became the duke, he began to realise that perhaps his father’s insistence on perfection had removed him too far from the people in his charge. Unfortunately, however, an accident when he ventured to move among his tenants to see what their lives were like led to Edgeworth – Edge to his intimates, of which there are not many – being so badly burned (on his legs) that at one point, his life was in jeopardy.

Upon his recovery, he discovers that the accident – and another recent life-threatening incident in which he was thrown from his horse – has somewhat altered his perspective on life. He knows that his father had always intended him to marry Miss Abigail Hightower, the younger daughter of their life-long neighbours, but secretly had always preferred the elder daughter, Lily, with whom he had sometimes played when they were children. Two brushes with death mean that Edge isn’t going to put off asking for her hand any longer, and he does so, in full confidence of his being accepted.

But Lily isn’t going to fall into his arms so readily. First of all, she had no idea that Edge had any interest in her, given that she believed he was destined for her sister, and second of all, she doesn’t want to be married to as high profile a figure as a duke. Lily has her own reasons for wanting to blend into the background and live a quiet life, not least of which is her belief that she is illegitimate; and her parents’ disastrous marriage, which often led to scenes of high drama and histrionics on the part of her highly strung mother, has most definitely given her a distaste for the institution, which she insists, is not for her.

Edge is not particularly upset by her refusal, and calmly goes about the business of changing her mind, his first step being to prove that the man she calls father really IS her father, and that her illegitimacy was a cruel taunt made by her mother when her parents were in the midst of a particularly vitriolic row. Lily finds it difficult to believe the truth, and is, naturally, hurt at the discovery that even her own father hadn’t bothered to disabuse her of her belief that she was the daughter of the local blacksmith.

With this barrier to her acceptance of Edge removed, Lily does start to soften her attitude towards him, and to allow herself to acknowledge the truth, which is that she is deeply attracted to him and always has been. His gentle persuasion gradually erodes her resistance to his suit and she agrees to marry him, even though she is still keeping one rather large and important secret from him. Unfortunately, the uncovering of one secret leads to the uncovering of others, one of which is like a slap in the face for Edge, who had never envisaged that the woman he has loved for so long could effect such a betrayal.

What should have been a fairly simple “hero-in-pursuit” story of two childhood friends realising they belong together is, sadly, marred by the fact that the book is overly busy. Lily comes from a difficult family – her parents were forever arguing and when her mother eventually left, it was relief Lily felt, rather than pain. Believing, herself to be “outside” the family (because she thought she was not her father’s child), Lily assumed the role of guardian to her younger sister and tried to protect her from the emotional fallout and the gossip, while she decided that becoming emotionally involved with anyone would only lead to misery. And while Edge’s early life was more settled than Lily’s he also had to adjust to the fact that his family wasn’t as perfect as he had believed it to be, and now has to face up to what he now regards as a serious mistake in the way he dealt with the effect of the revelations that split his family apart.

The biggest problem with the book, however, is that the two central characters are very poorly defined, in spite of all their emotional baggage. Lily is a mass of insecurities who just seems to want to hide away all the time, and Edge, while clearly the product of enormous privilege is fairly bland. There is almost zero chemistry between them; in fact the first sex scene (of two – and they’re both little more than a paragraph, really) happens pretty much out of the blue in the sense that there is no emotional build up to it at all, and no discussion of possible consequences or even why they are going to bed together.

I also didn’t find the writing style to be especially engaging; at the beginning of the book in particular, it’s choppy in the way the author jumps from scene to scene without really telling me what was happening, so I felt rather adrift for the first few chapters. Things are hinted at and alluded to, but not in a way that enabled me to get a firm grasp on either events or characters. The second half works better, and for all that Edge’s character is underdeveloped, I discovered him to be quite sweet in an awkward kind of way, while Lily’s insistence on believing she was like her mother was patently ridiculous and got very annoying very quickly.

Lily and Edge both had the potential to be interesting and attractive, but lacked depth and were instead pretty much one-note characters I didn’t really warm to. The number of plot elements introduced made the book perhaps a little too busy, and this, together with the lack of romantic chemistry and weak characterisation made The Wallflower Duchess a bit of a disappointment overall.