Barbara Monajem is one of those authors for me. Her work for Harlequin Historical Undone tends to feature a nice historical flavor, interesting characters, and "different" plot-lines to keep me from feeling like I'm reading a retread. In the case of The Unrepentant Rake, the "different" was what held me back.
Readers first met Simon Caling in another Undone short story, The Wanton Governess. A younger son, he's a bit of a cad. A charming, sexy cad - but a cad nonetheless. One of his acquaintances is hopelessly in love with a young lady, but he's too damn tongue-tied to offer for her. He's hoping Simon can help him out. Simon, with nothing more amusing to do, agrees - only to find himself captivated by the girl's governess, Beatrix March.
Beatrix will soon my leaving her employer, but she cannot do that until she finds her missing relic. Her family has had possession of a toe bone of St. Davnet for generations. She believes the relic is what has been responsible for family harmony all these years. And now her foolish young charge has swiped it from her thinking it will help with her love life! Bah! To make matters worse, Simon Caling, a rake of the first order, is visiting and he's sniffing around. The lady of the house is completely unconcerned, which means it is up to Beatrix to protect the girls. Little does she know Simon only has eyes for her.
As much as I enjoyed the previous short story, this latest entry didn't really cook for me. While I enjoy Monajem's light touches of humor, and she continues to write excellent banter, the whole sub plot revolving around the missing toe bone (seriously?) was just a bit too farcical for my blood. It was just....silly. And unfortunately, since I found it silly, the heroine, who deeply believes in the powers of said toe bone, comes off as silly.
Simon is what carries this story for me. He's charming, he's rakish without being slimy, and it's a wonder that all the females in this story manage to keep their clothes on around him (well, Beatrix doesn't succeed - but then she's the heroine). But I couldn't help but think Simon would have been better matched with a more mature heroine. Someone who has been around the block. Someone who didn't believe in magical, saintly toe bones.
So where does that leave us? Well, with personal preference. If you can swing with a little bit of farce, enjoy sexy banter, and don't mind heroines who participate in a bit of "magical thinking" - you will likely enjoy this story more than I did. I still enjoyed the author's writing, and she continues to work well in this tough shorter format. It's just this particular story wasn't really my cup of tea. Someone pass the Earl Grey....
Final Grade = C+