The Rake's Retreat, by Nancy Butler

>> Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I'd been meaning to try Nancy Butler for some time, so when I found out a friend had one of her books, The Rake's Retreat, I borrowed it.

Dangerous Haven

One fragrant June afternoon, Lady Jemima Vale took her canvas stool and sketchbook to the sunny countryside with the intention of drawing a pleasant view of some aspens. But what she saw made her heart lurch. From across the plain came a ruggedly handsome rider...and a girl in distress!

Jemima was aghast to discover that the man was Mr. Beecham Bryce. Bryce had cut a swath through the ton since before she had made her comeout, and his name was a byword for all that was licentious and low. Now, he was escorting a traumatized young girl who had just witnessed a shocking murder! Jemima felt obligated to accompany the two to Bryce's estate- the poor child should not be unchaperoned in the company of such a rogue. ...

There, at his baronial manor, they were safe from the killer. But as the scandalous incident brought Jemima closer to Bryce, she found that it was her heart that was in danger...from her own desire.
Though the first part promised more than the last part delivered, I'm glad I tried Butler and will look for her backlist. My grade for this book was a B-.

The first part of the book was delightful. Even though I'm posting this some time later, I actually read The Rake's Retreat right after that disgusting skank-fest, Total Surrender, and a light, frothy, wholesome Regency was exactly what I needed to cleanse my palate.

I found the set-up fascinating, especially the way Butler used to get them all sequestered in Bryce's house, and I thought I was getting an intriguing mystery on top of the sweet romance. The first interactions of the characters were wonderful, both how Bryce and Jemima start theirs, with a lot of very witty, funny sparring, and how these two relate to Lovelace, the young lady in distress who had just witnessed the murder.

Unfortunately, it all unraveled a bit near the end. I think I can pinpoint exactly where it was: it all went downhill when Troy's friends arrived. That was when we started having all the spies running around and at that point I thought Butler lost the reins on her characters, and Bryce and Jemima's circling each other became a bit tedious and it became hard to understand what exactly the problem was that they couldn't just be together. Also, I thought a certain, very traumatic event in Jemima's past was dealt with to carelessly, almost discounted, and there was no exploration of what the effect on Jemima must have been.

The book served its purpose, but it could have been better.


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