Wednesday, December 16, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: A Rake for Christmas

The Book: A Rake for Christmas by Ann Lethbridge

The Particulars: Harlequin Historical Undone, historical romance short story, 2011, available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I like short reads, which means I gobbled up quite a few of these Undones and their spicier sister, Spice Briefs, back in the day.  The blurb tickled my fancy and I've enjoyed Lethbridge's work in the past.  Plus, hello - a Christmas read.

The Review: The Day Job has been something the past couple of weeks and partially because of that I've been struggling with reading. I had picked out an entirely different book this month, a Christmas SuperRomance that has been in my TBR since 2007 (!) but I wasn't feeling it, I was starting to get annoyed, and work being what it is I wasn't up for powering through a book that was likely going to end up a C read at best. So out of desperation I hit my digital TBR and found this Undone that I had yet to read (and it may be the last one in the pile!).

Lady Eugenie Hardwick made the mistake of falling for the wrong man. Shenanigans happened and he talked, causing a scandal that had to be hushed up and her banishment. Worse still?  She liked those shenanigans, making her a true wanton.  Now she's living away from her family, who no longer acknowledge her, in a duplex-style home.  On the other side of the VERY thin walls is Lord Richard Townsend who is a rake.  Eugenie has lost track of the women she's seen coming and going - and for that matter hearing coming and going. Which is leaving Eugenie all hot and bothered with no other recourse than to take matters into her own hands - wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Richard is getting distracted by the spinster next door. They've been exchanging slightly acerbic, witty letters back and forth (mostly about her cat sneaking under the hedge into his side of the garden....) and just as she can hear him with his latest opera singer mistress?  Um, he can hear her taking matters into her own hands - wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  Surely this will not do. An heir with no desire to settle down anytime soon, the spinster next door is not paramour material.  That is until she shows up late one evening to deliver an urgent message that was accidentally delivered to her by mistake.

We all know what happens next. And naturally since this is an Undone short story, it's definitely spicier than the typical Harlequin Historical offering.  I'm a sucker for heroines with dubious reputations and Eugenie is severely hot and bothered by this point - meaning she rather throws herself into the proceedings.  Richard is all rake, and isn't about to let this golden opportunity pass him by. Naturally what happens between them is something more.  Eugenie is now concerned about extracting a promise from Richard that he won't blab about their interlude to anyone and Richard?  Well he's more concerned about properly wooing and courting Eugenie - our boy has fallen.

I like to read short, so I'm not usually one to say "I wish this story was longer...." - but well, I wish this story was longer.  Eugenie's fall from grace is just lightly dusted over, and the timing between Richard breaking off with his latest mistress and bedding Eugenie is lightning quick.  Um, as in the same evening.  Opera Singer wants a deeper relationship, Richard says no, she throws things and storms out.  A few minutes later here's Eugenie showing up on his doorstep with the wrongly delivered message.  So, yeah.  A longer story would have meant more "courtship" through those acerbic, witty letters, and a few more palatable pages between Richard's assignations. 

It also would have meant the Happy For Now ending would have spun out a bit more.  I have no doubt these two will stay together, but there's a dynamite set-up for a Fake Relationship/Engagement which would have mined the respective family baggage for both Richard and Eugenie.

But it's a short story, and that's what it is.  It's problematic in some areas, but I enjoyed Lethbridge's writing and I enjoyed the story.  Plus it allowed me to finish the 2020 TBR Challenge by actually reading something in full.

Final Grade = B-


azteclady said...

All the yay for a story you liked enough to want more of--even as I wince at the "dump mistress for wanting relationship, bed heroine, and immediately want relationship with *her*" thing, because it smacks hard of "not like other girls"

It would be awesome if this premise was spun out into a longer book.

Happy holidays, Miz Wendy, here's hoping the year ends better at work (and ::gestures widely:: everywhere else) than it's been lately, and the new year brings you all good things.

Jill said...

I always meant to read an Undone and now I feel like I've missed my window ;-) I know they're digital (and I think my library has some), but I probably won't ever hunt one down now unless it's by an author I already love.

I read A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau. Canadian Thanksgiving, so definitely not too close to December but still festive ;-) It was a novella where the hero and heroine hook up for a one night stand and then have the awkwardness of encountering each other over the Thanksgiving dinner table b/c the heroine has been set up on a blind date with the hero's brother. Which sounds like it could be an interesting premise, right?
Well, the story kind of breezed right past that. They got together quickly, everyone was fine with it, etc. The story was mostly about each of them dealing about their insecurities about the different feelings they had about their relationship history. I know it was just a novella, but I felt the conflict seemed too slight and predictable. I think I've realized Jackie Lau just seems to get her characters together a little bit too quickly for my taste. I don't need things to be super angsty, but I like a little more slow burn, will-they-won't-they feeling to my romances. It had lots of delicious food and fun sexy times, so definitely not a total waste and I'd give it maybe a B/B-

Dorine said...

Jill and Wendy - good to see that you both got a decent book for this month's challenge. I really tried - started three books and DNF any of them. I think I'm ready for 2021. I know my reading/reviewing mojo really needs a new beginning, if not a good smack! LOL

I hope everyone has a great holiday and the New Year is everything we hope for and deserve!

Wendy said...

AL: Oh yeah, it's problematic. And yet I liked it. Lethbridge's writing I suspect, also there were elements of the plot I REALLY liked - like those acerbic, witty notes. If this had been a lengthier word count a lot of the problematic stuff could have definitely been smoothed over.

Jill: Harlequin's pricing on the Undones and Spice Briefs were terrible given their very short word count (usually 50-75 pages). They even went back to the drawing board a year or so ago with Carina Press's Dirty Bits line - but that too looks like it's gone belly up.

Glad to hear you liked the Lau. I've got a few of hers in my TBR and....well, isn't that a familiar refrain?

Dorine: Oh I've had months like that. I have a TBR Challenge post from a few years ago where it was a round-up of the four books I DNF'ed and then finally a novella I managed to finish - LOL.

2020 has been so hard and my November/December reading has been a crashing failure. I lack the energy, the interest and attention span right now.