Thursday 30 November 2017

#CBR9 Book 106: "The Rebel Heir" by Elizabeth Michels

Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 2 stars

Spoiler warning! This review will contain plot spoilers, because for me to be able to work through my various thoughts and feeling about the plot (which was quite dumb), I will need to spoil bits of it. You don't actually want to read this book anyway, I promise, so view the spoilers as more of a favour than a problem.

Ashley Claughbane is the fourth son in a noble family from the Isle of Man (or Wight - I don't entirely remember, and I can't be bothered to look it up - it's one of those wind-blown islands off the coast of Britain somewhere). He is in no way the heir to anything at all - so the book's title is wildly misleading. While some of his actions might be seen as rebellious, he appears to have two healthy brothers between himself and the eldest, who is in fact a duke. Ash (he hates being called Ashley) has sworn revenge on Lord Rightworth, the man who apparently ruined the family fortune a decade or so back. He promised his mother on her deathbed (or something to that effect) that he would not rest until he had made the man pay. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, he's been preparing for this revenge by travelling around much of Southern England, selling worthless potions and conning stupid nobles out of money. During one of these encounters, he met Evangeline Green, shared a kiss with her and then disappeared without a trace.

Now a year later, Evangeline recognises Ash at a ball, currently posing as Lord Crosby. He now has the backing of a group of gentleman known as "The Spare Heirs Club", although what exactly these dudes do is a mystery to me, even after finishing the book. He wants to con Lord Rightworth and a bunch of other people out of a large amount of money by having them invest in a "portable steam engine", but keeps being distracted by the lovely Evie. Who of course is Lord Rightworth's youngest daughter. There's a whole thing where Evie's mother has grand plans for her daughter's match (after becoming estranged with her eldest daughter after having tried to get Evie matched with the guy said daughter married - I'm hazy on the details) and spends much of her time torturing her daughter to make her be the perfect debutante. She coaches her in what to wear, how to walk, what to say and if she feels her daughter isn't slim enough, she keeps her from eating and forces the maids to tighten her corsets even more.

Anyways, Evie and Ash obviously fall for one another, and as they get to know each other better, Ash discovers that the Evie is in fact the reason that her father, Lord Rightworth claimed all his outstanding debts with Ash' father in one fell swoop, causing the Claughbane family to be temporarily ruined. That his brother is now a duke and has made a successful go of recovering the fortune their father squandered, and doesn't in any way wish for Ash to go through with his idiotic revenge scenario doesn't seem to matter. I never understood why, if Ash really wanted to strike a blow at Lord Rightworth, why eloping with his youngest daughter (whom Ash is in love with, and who seems to love him back even knowing 1) that he's a con man who's swindled people all over England and 2) wants some kind of revenge on her dad) wouldn't in fact be the perfect way to enact said vengeance? It would cause a scandal for the Rigthworths, Evie would be free of her horrible mother and Ash would have both his long-sought revenge and the woman he loved.

Of course that's not what happens. No, there's a whole big scene during Evie's engagement ball (to a nobleman of her mother's choosing) where a bunch of nobles from Bath and other Southern towns come to confront Ash, just as one of the Spare Heir guys produces his pet inventor, who has, based partially on the ideas laid forth by Ash earlier, miraculously managed to invent the very steam engine that Ash has been claiming they can invest in. He's not a fraud after all, but a successful entrepreneur who will be making tons of money. Yay? Also, Evie has (in ways that are never explained) managed to contact every single servant that her mother has fired over the years, and convinced them to show up at the ball carrying trays of daisies (because those are Evie's favourite flower) and after Evie causes a massive scene where she publicly explains to everyone how her mother has been treating her, she tears off her jewelry and throws it and a number of choice words at her mother, and proceeds to empty a whole vase of flowers over her mother's head. This deeply anachronistic display, that would be likely to get Evie committed to an asylum in the Regency era, is instead applauded by everyone there.

Evie's mother is packed off to the countryside, Lord Rigthworth had apparently never bothered to find out how his wife treated their daughters and Ash, who is now no longer a con man, but has the promise of a huge fortune and is, if you remember, the brother of a duke, can marry Evie to his heart's content.

Yeah, there was far too much in this book that didn't make sense to me, and that conclusion was a total mess. While Evie seemed sweet enough, the way her sister refused to have anything to do with her, even though it's clear the sister must have known their evil mother's machinations was the reason Evie had ever shown an interest in her suitor was sort of baffling. There was also a confusing subplot with twin sisters who were friends of Evie's, where one was in love with another of the spare heirs, but due to a confusing series of events involving a fire, the other twin was compromised by him and they were forced to get engaged. Evie spends a whole lot of the novel being either very upset with Ash, only to turn around and forgive him for everything - rinse, repeat.

This is one of those times when Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, whose reviews I can normally trust, especially if they're by Redheadedgirl, let me down. To be fair, I got this book for free at some point, but wouldn't actually have gotten it or read it if it hadn't been given a B rating on a site I trust. It has an average rating of 3.49 on Goodreads, which is frankly higher than it deserves.

This is the first novel by Elizabeth Michels I have read, and based on several of the anachronisms, the confused and rather silly plot, not to mention the fact that it took me about a week and a half to finish it (which should NOT be the case for a romance novel), I will be avoiding her output in the future. Even if the books are in fact being given away. 

Judging a book by its cover: Where do I even begin with this cover? The guy's hair looks like it belongs on a Lego figurine, that helmet-like solid mass that you can just snap into place. There's copious amounts of man-titty, which would totally make sense if you're just standing around in what looks to be an empty ballroom? Of course your shirt would be unbuttoned to the waist (yet still tucked into your oh-so-tight breeches). Then there's the fact that his chest and abs (very impressive-looking) appear to have been both waxed and oiled, not exactly historically correct either. The guy looks like a total sleaze-ball and while I wasn't overly enthused about the story, this cover may be my least favourite thing about the book. It's no White Hot (NOTHING is that bad), but it's not good either.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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