Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I Read in June Part I

What I Read in June Part I . . .

The Actress and the RakeThe Actress and the Rake by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance

Nerisaa Wingate is a seamstress for a Shakespearean theater company in York. Her parents are actors who have carefully shielded her from anything improper. The theater is badly in need of money, as are the actors, so when Nerissa receives a letter from her grandfather's lawyer, she takes a chance that there might be an inheritance and travels to Dorset to her mother's family home for the reading of the will. Miles Courtenay is one of London's most notorious rakes. He lives by his wits and his skill at cards. He's usually lucky enough to support an opera dancer or two but not enough to pay his tailor or a valet to trick him out in style. When he discovers a summons from his late godfather, he dashes off to Dorset to discover whether he is left anything in the will. The cantankerous Sir Barnabas hated his sponging relatives and so left the bulk of his estate, including the fortune and property, to the only two people who never asked him for anything: his godson Miles and his estranged daughter's daughter. However, there are conditions attached. Convinced the young people are wastrels up to no good, Sir Barnabas determines that Miles should neither go to bed with a woman nor gamble for six months and Nerissa must not act like a hussy and be accepted by the local gentry. The rest of the family are also convinced the heirs will fail. If they don't, the relatives are on hand to make sure they do. If the living relatives fail, Sir Barnabas has a few tricks up his ghostly sleeve.

The plot sounds cute and had some slightly amusing moments, but I had a huge problem with how Nerissa was perceived solely because she grew up in the theater. Yes many actresses did sell themselves to wealthy protectors but with good reason and I'm sure that they weren't wild wanton creatures without any self-control. Sir Barnabas' persistent prejudice really really disgusted me. The plot moves a little slowly. The story felt long and repetitive at times. The romance actually develops nicely and didn't go in the direction I expected. There's a tiny bit of sensuality but it's kisses only clean. I liked how Nerissa realized her feelings for Miles and why. She's physically attracted to him at first but as she gets to know him, she grows to love him for the person he is. The ending is way too abrupt and lacking in romance.

The characters were my main problem with the story. I loathed the villains. They weren't supposed to be likeable but they just made me so mad. I thought they were rather perverted. They didn't just want Nerissa and Miles to fail, they wanted to CATCH the pair. That to me implies a nasty mind. The minor villains develop really nicely. They start off as cardboard characters but their character growth is pretty good. I especially liked Sophie. She's very sweet and I felt sorry for her. Nerissa is a nice character. Her background makes a more unique story than the usual impoverished and/or orphaned/poor relation heroine. Her parents love each other and raised her with love which is also different from the usual poor heroine. Her character growth is good. I liked how she grew.I did not like Miles. I usually like rakes but I don't like to know about their exploits and he was especially disgusting. In between his first and last scenes, he's lovable for the most part because fundamentally he's a good person, but he just didn't appeal to me much. This isn't Carola Dunn's best story and doesn't make my recommended list.

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