RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: A Rake’s Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell


Title: A Rake's Midnight Kiss
Author: Anna Campbell
Publication Info: Forever August 2013
ISBN: 978-1455512102
Genre: Historical: European

Book A Rake's Midnight Kiss This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Caty B. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Historical Romance category.

The summary:


Brilliant scholar Genevieve Barrett's secret identity as the author of her father's articles is her greatest deception-until her father's handsome new student arrives on their doorstep. Genevieve recognizes him as the masked intruder who earlier tried to steal a priceless gem from their home. Keeping the seductive stranger's identity hidden is a risk, but she's got secrets of her own to keep.


Sir Richard Harmsworth fakes a rakish facade to show society that he doesn't care about his bastard status. Yet haunted by his unknown father's identity, Richard believes the Harmsworth Jewel will prove he's the rightful heir. Intent on seducing the stone away from its owner, Richard finds himself face-to-face with a beauty more breathtaking than any jewel. But even as she steals Richard's heart, Genevieve will be in greater danger than her coveted treasure . . .

And here is Caty B.'s review:

I’ve edited this over and over, afraid I was being too harsh. But…I mean, it really didn’t work for me. I was surprised that it had been nominated for an award. And glancing at the star ratings on Amazon, apparently most people enjoyed it, so I worried that I had gone insane. But every time I’ve gone over my notes, I’m reminded of all the things that frustrated me.

Genevieve is the daughter of a vicar who takes the credit for all of her scholarly articles. Despite his lack of honor, she gamely perseveres, hoping she can parlay a discovery she recently made about the Harmsworth Jewel into a scholarly article with her own byline. She was described as brilliant, but outside a couple of mentions of how stunning her discovery was, we never really see her brilliance. She went to meet her academic contact, and as soon as the reader might get to see an example of her being brilliant while talking to another scholar, the scene ended. The telling of her brilliance was constant; the showing of her brilliance was nonexistent.

Richard, on the other hand, is a bitter nobleman with such a large chip on his shoulder that by all rights it should have snapped his spine. He can’t stand that he’s a bastard and that people still occasionally gossip about the scandalous circumstances of his birth. He decides that he has finally had enough of it and thinks finding the long-lost family heirloom – the Harmsworth Jewel – will show the naysayers the error of their ways.

Except – and I must be missing something here – there was no conflict. He was clearly the product of adultery, but his legal father had been glad to accept Richard as his son since his birth. Richard had already inherited from his father, and no one was challenging his rights. The thing that apparently drove him over the edge was a young, jilted gentleman who referred to Richard as a bastard. Which is mean and all, but it didn’t work for me – seriously, you think the drunken words of a teenager justify you faking a new identity and toying with the emotions of an inexperienced country girl to try to get the Harmsworth Jewel from her? And you think finding the family heirloom will prove to all those society gossips that you’re not really a bastard and they should all just respect you already? I thought it was a foolish plan – because society gossips always obey the power of a symbolic bauble and reform their mean-spirited ways, don’t they? And the fact is, even Richard, in the first chapter, admitted it was outlandish and that the Jewel was only symbolic. I didn’t see why I should care about the guy if he’s that nonsensical and immoral (I loved his justification that stealing the Jewel outright wasn’t fair play, but lying about his identity, breaking into a house to recon the place, and playing with the vulnerable daughter’s emotions? That’s all fine and dandy.)

So, okay, I hear you saying, “But characters grow! They change! He would realize the error of his juvenile ways!” And you’re right; by the end, he knows the Jewel won’t solve his issues. But if I hadn’t been reading this for a review, I would never have gotten to the end. He didn’t have a character arc so much as a series of character splodges: one hundred pages of loutish behavior, another one hundred of lust (subcategory: creepily protective), another one hundred of lust (subcategory: maybe love exists?), and then the last one hundred pages were just…oh god, I don’t know. A weird mix of resolutions for the three different threads of the story and by the end, I had no idea which was supposed to be the main story.

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Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Not to mention that bastards can’t inherit titles or the property entailed with them. HIs father could acknowledge him and leave him the unentailed property, but not his title or the property that went with it. Or was that explained?

  2. 2
    Sandra says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I gather from the various reviews, it wasn’t that he was born out of wedlock, but that his mother committed adultery. His putative father, from whom he inherited his title (a baronetcy, I presume), acknowledged Richard as his son, even though apparently everybody in the world knew that he wasn’t. Which makes me wonder, if all the world knows he’s a bastard, wouldn’t they also know who his sperm donor is? Or is this a case of the impotent (or gay) husband, get the wife knocked up by someone else trope? And why does the whole world know this?

  3. 3
    Caty B says:

    Ack, sorry to take so long to get back to you both!

    Lynne, he wasn’t really a bastard, since his mother was married and her husband never divorced her – but my memory is that people called him a bastard, and that’s what made him furious and determined to find the brooch because then the gossip about the scandal would theoretically stop.

    Sandra, you’ve got it, his mother committed adultery – it was a case of her husband being abroad for 16 months, and he returned to an obvious newborn, which is why everyone knew about it. But, if I remember it right, she refused to name the father, and her husband simply never made it an issue. Never brought up divorce or anything, and my understanding of the time would say that it was entirely in his hands whether to take action or not, so he tacitly accepted Richard as his son by not taking legal action.



    Since he was impotent – if I remember right, there is the trope of the virgin wife – so I felt like Richard’s father’s actions implied that he was happy to have a son at all – although the reader never meets Richard’s legal father, so it’s tough to know his actual motivations.

    Which is why I thought the plot was weak – his legal father accepted him. It would have made so much sense (maybe too much? maybe the writer was trying to avoid something she felt was too obvious?) to have a relative try to wrangle the legal system to disinherit Richard after his father’s death, but there was nothing like that – the baronetcy was his, and so the plot seemed to revolve not around securing it, but how he felt about it.

    So for me, I just couldn’t take it seriously from there, when that was what was used to explain some of Richard’s behavior – I find most alpha heroes to be difficult to connect with, and for me, he came across as both alpha and childish, without any kind of real problem to solve.

    But, now that I’ve added a whole damn chapter to my review, I have to say – I’m glad the other two reviews for this book were positive. I felt terrible and rewrote this review so many times, but I couldn’t lie about how much I didn’t like it (the phrase “[Richard’s] yen to invade her virginal bed” will haunt me with its skeeviness – it’s still stuck in my head). That said, other people loved it, and I’m a harsh grader, so definitely give it a try if you’re tempted.

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