My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I was really looking forward to Days of Rakes and Roses by Anna Campbell ever since I found out about it. But unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this novella. I could barely stand the characters and their activities throughout, so it barely made 3 stars. Too bad, the cover is so lovely!
When I read book 1, Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (which I LOVED), I found no indication that there might be a novella. We met Jonas’s (H of book 1) friends, Camden and Richard though. This story takes place a little earlier. Lydia, the h, is Cam’s sister, who was briefly mentioned in book 1.
Lydia and Simon used to be childhood friends. Both have also been in love, a childhood crush IMO, though it wasn’t successful, thanks to Lydia’s mean father, the Duke of Sedgemoor. A young Lydia was caught making out with Simon, a mere ‘Mr.’, by the Duke. He was horribly mad and treated Lydia very harshly for this. It is a common knowledge and gossip in the Ton that Lydia’s mother, the late Duchess, had a scandalous affair with her own brother-in-law, the Duke’s rakish younger brother. Because of this, Cam’s paternity has been left undecided, even though he later inherited the Dukedom being the only son. Simon left London a few days after the incident and never to communicate with Lydia ever again. This broke her heart and she has hated him ever since.
Or so Lydia thought, until Simon returns in her life, after 10 long years. As Lydia has always been judged because of her mother’s actions (and also for her youthful indiscretion), she has cultivated this ‘paragon-of-virtue’ kind of reputation in these past years. She hasn’t married because in secret, she pined away for Simon, hoping someday he’ll return. But now, she’s engaged to be married to this older man, an aspiring politician, Berwick. Apparently she wanted this match. Even though Cam was not happy as it’s not going to be a love match, Lydia believes she’ll be happy in this marriage, even if it lacks the passionate kind of bond she shared with Simon.
But on the day of her engagement ball, Simon returns. When Cam brings Simon to introduce to her fiancé, Lydia knew her brother had a hand in his return. Also, as Simon begins to woo her secretly (sometimes not even quite so), Lydia is determined to thwart his advances at all cost because she hates him, remember?
Oh, I remember Lydia, but do you? *eyeroll*
Now, let me tell you why I didn’t enjoy this novella:
# I hated that Lydia pined away for Simon even though he was kind of a douche. I can’t really recommend anything about him other than his so-called golden good looks and charming words. The reason he gave her for not communicating with her for so long was lame IMO, especially when I think of the 10 years in between (5 years since Lydia’s father died). So WTF he did in these years if he was so in love with her? Oh, let me tell you what; he was sowing his ‘wild oats’ in the exotic parts of the greater world! He even had a rakish reputation build on that in London and Lydia knew about it well.
# I didn’t like Simon at all. I felt that he was more of a charmer with empty words. As I said, I can’t recommend anything about him, not even an interesting personality.
# I didn’t like Cam’s interference, especially when they had no specific plan of what to do. He wanted Simon to woo Lydia out of the marriage, which is why he wrote to him to return. Why now? Why not right after his father died when she was still pining away for Simon???
# When Lydia and Simon started dancing around this push and pull, I began to grow annoyed. Lydia would ‘show’ that she would never allow Simon’s advances, but inside, she’d grow wet instead every time he’s near her, Berwick can go to hell. WTF? At one point, she even tells Cam that she’d marry Berwick no matter what. But I distinctly felt she said that just to show Simon that he means nothing to her. Was that a smart, mature statement for a 27 yrs. old woman?
# Lydia’s hypocrisy where her feelings were concerned was just... ugh! She planned on using Berwick for her own gain and yet, at the end of the story, Berwick was made the villain, one of the reasons was his interest in Lydia for her family connection. I, for one, can’t blame him cause I didn’t find anything else interesting about her myself.
# And so, the unsubtle attempt of making Berwick the most obvious villain at the end to smooth things over just didn’t work for me. After all, Lydia does cheat on him with Simon.
Finally, have to mention this... So your fiancé and your lover are fighting a duel (because you both were stupid enough to get caught while making out, again, in a public place). You want to stop it. What do you do? You of course run to the dueling ground and call out your lover’s name just when he’s about to shoot your fiancé, right? Wrong! That is exactly what Lydia did and Simon was injured. But Berwick was made to look like the villain because he shot Simon. Simon later thanks his ‘love of life’ for saving him, huh? I mean, hello!? It wasn’t even a fair duel because of Lydia’s very TSTL move so putting the blame on Berwick and being done with it isn’t just ok! Moreover, Simon had already given up on life knowing he can’t shoot Berwick even if his life depended on it (irony, anyone?) because Berwick’s very good with his pistol. Seesh!
I read one of the reviews mentioning that everything in here felt ‘forced’ and I completely agree. Together with such uninteresting characters... *sigh*
After all these being said, I’m still looking forward to book 2, A Rake's Midnight Kiss, as I was ever since I finished book 1. It’s Richard’s story and the excerpt was really interesting. Can’t wait to find out what he’s about! Also hoping to find some update on Jonas and Sidonie in it.