Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: Rules of Surrender by Christina Dodd

All societies have their rules. Those rules may not always agree, but to function as an accepted member of a society, it behooves a person to hew to the expectations and requirements that society has codified. Of course there are people who get away with flouting the rules but they are almost always a person who knows the rules before intentionally violating them. These rule breakers are generally either questioning the rules or just don't care about them. When someone who is a rule follower meets a rule breaker, sparks are sure to fly, as is the case in Christina Dodd's Rules of Surrender, an early Victorian set historical romance.

Lady Charlotte Dalrumple works for the newly established Distinguished Academy of Governesses. She is no nonsense and her nickname is Miss Priss. She is hired by the Viscountess Adorna Ruskin to civilize her grandchildren, recently come to England from El Bahar, a Middle Eastern country that evokes Bedouins and camels rather than the English niceties they must conform to now. But the children are not the only ones Charlotte must try to civilize, there's also Lord Wynter Ruskin, the Viscountess' long lost son who ran away from home at the age of fifteen after his father's death. Wynter hates the hypocrisy of English society and is only willing to conform to a point for love of his mother. Horrifyingly, Charlotte finds herself attracted to this rugged, heathenish man. And that's not all of her worries since this finishing governess post is in the same village that she grew up in and from which she ran after refusing a marriage her uncle had engineered for her. As Charlotte coaches the children on how to be proper English children, she falls for them and for their father and he for her despite their opposing ideas about civilization.

Charlotte is a completely forgettable heroine. Her love for the children is sweet but as for the rest, she's an uptight snob and her relationship with the domineering Wynter never did seem to move beyond teacher chastizing pupil even though we are told it does. Wynter is an annoying and horrible, smug, chauvinist. The flowery language he uses that is supposed to be as if a translation of a foreign language is grating and his casual misogyny is awful. He purposely baits Charlotte and has to be pretending that he doesn't understand English society because he didn't leave the country until he was fully fifteen years old. He might have forgotten the nuances in the intervening decades but he wouldn't be as ignorant to the big picture as he is written. In addition to the main plot line, there are also smaller plot lines and happenings that don't integrate all that well or are too easily resolved: embezzlement, a scandal that forces marriage, Viscountess Adorna's own relationship, another runaway, and the revelations of the past. I spent much (all) of the book wanting Wynter to disappear permanently, not a good situation for a romance.  Add in what is essentially a wedding night rape and I just can't recommend this one.  One barbarian hero outside of society's rules and one stickler heroine equals one truly disappointing romance.

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