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Friday, November 12, 2010

Rakes and Radishes by Susana Ives

Rakes and Radishes by Susana Ives
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (250 pages)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Lily

When Henrietta Watson learns that the man she loves plans to marry London's most beautiful and fashionable debutante, she plots to win him back. She'll give him some competition by transforming her boring bumpkin neighbor, the Earl of Kesseley, into a rakish gothic hero worthy of this Season's Diamond.

After years of unrequited love for Henrietta, Kesseley is resigned to go along with her plan and woo himself a willing bride. But once in London, everything changes. Kesseley—long more concerned with his land than his title—discovers that he's interested in sowing wild oats as well as radishes. And Henrietta realizes that gothic heroes don't make ideal husbands. Despite an explosive kiss that opens her eyes to the love that's been in front of her all along, Henrietta must face the possibility that Kesseley is no longer looking to marry at all...

Readers may be attracted by the curious title which could rate as one of the most imaginative of the year. However, it is perfectly apt for this Regency romance.

Henrietta Watson, a young lady who delves rather too deeply into Mrs. Fairfax’s dashing Gothic novels, is in love with her cousin Edward. As she’s living in the depths of East Anglia, the mail coach only makes rare deliveries but, in Henrietta’s world, Edward should be writing to her every day. And that’s the problem – he’s not, which isn’t the behavior expected of a poetic lover. Then Henrietta discovers the reason: he’s fallen in love with one of London’s shining debutantes and is ready to elope with her. Henrietta has been relegated to past-lover status.

Brokenhearted, she turns to her only confidante: her childhood friend and neighbor, Lord Kesseley who just happens to be every hot-blooded woman’s dream: “shaggy chestnut curls…fell into his grey eyes…side-whiskers softened his otherwise hard, lean face”. He tends to wear scruffy doeskins, smells of the barnyard and has been madly in love with Henrietta for years. He’s the kind of man the reader wouldn’t mind meeting on a dark, sultry night.

On the other hand, Henrietta is not so endearing. She needs a good shake and a yell in the ear: “Wake up, woman, the guy loves you”. After all, she’s not stupid. She’s able to answer her father’s questions of “what is the distance from a center to a focus?” with barely a second’s thought. Yet, it’s all Edward, Edward, Edward and to get him back, she concocts the unlikely plot of transforming country-loving, down-to-earth Kesseley into one of her gothic heroes who will take London by storm, make the beautiful debutante fall out of love with Edward and into the arms of Kesseley. And, amazingly – given the man he is, he falls in with her plans, even going as far as to read her gothic romances so that he can get ideas. Is it hardly surprising that her brainless scheme works too well for her own good?

The array of supporting characters are well portrayed, and the descriptions of houses, places and clothes are very well researched and on a par with any Jane Austen novel. If Henrietta could just be more convincing, the novel deserves four books. In fact I cared so little for her I was delighted when she fell flat on her face in Hyde Park. However, the plot races along with those all-intriguing questions lurking, “will she, won’t she?” and “how will this get sorted out?” – perfect techniques for making the reader want to read on. But it’s for Kesseley that I was most concerned. I just wanted the best for this man as he weaved in and out of the story.

On the whole, despite some implausible plotting, the novel was well paced and, if you can bear just a couple of cheesy lines such as “Do you like me?” “Yes, can I touch you?” the love scenes were moving and satisfying. This is a feel-good book and, if you are interested in the culture and life-style of this era, and the fact there is one very likeable main character, then you’ll enjoy the book.