To Romance a Charming Rogue - Nicole Jordan I suppose I should have known this book wouldn't be my cup of tea. The formulaic title (To Verb a/an Adjective Noun is Regency's new Wicked Peer of the English Realm) was warning enough, but still, like The Monkees before me, I'm a Believer. Admittedly, I have a weakness for these "second chance at love" stories, and they never turn out well, mainly because there's a valid reason that the couple was incompatible in the first place. In the case of To Romance a Charming Rogue, I read the blurb, plucked the proverbial apple off the tree, and then ended up choking on the damn poison fruit for two days. Will I ever learn?

Screw you, Ariel. There's no reason to be so freaking chipper about it.

When Damon Stafford, Viscount Wrexham, returns to London from a two-year trip on the continent, Eleanor Pierce would like nothing better than to avoid his company altogether. Two years prior, they were engaged, and Eleanor was deeply in love with the handsome lord. But then, horror of horrors, she witnessed Damon gallivanting in Hyde Park with his dirty, filthy mistress! Engagement aborted! Heartbreak eternal! Of course, when Damon returns to London, he can't keep his selfish hands off of Eleanor, even though she's attempting to gain a betrothal with a prince and keeps saying she wants nothing to do with Damon. Very quickly, Damon decides that even though he's sworn never to love, he doesn't want anyone else loving / not loving Eleanor in his place. So like a perfectly sane person, he pursues the living daylights out of the unwilling lady. Luckily for Damon, Eleanor isn't as unwilling as she acts. Once she realizes she can't shake her love for Damon, she decides to win his love in the most normal, period appropriate way: She enlists the advice of a famous courtesan! Will Lord Her-Mouth-Says-No-But-Her-Eyes-Say-Yes come to heel over Clever Miss Thang's seductive machinations, or will both of them perish in a tragic hot-air balloon accident? (Believe it or not, dying in a hot-air balloon crash is a plot option in this book.)

Don't fall, Pooh.

The main characters are the story's greatest flaw. It's been a long time since I've hated the hero and heroine equally, but Nicole Jordan probably shouldn't be proud of this particular accomplishment. Damon and Eleanor are irrational, selfish, and weak of character. Let's start with fucking Damon because this guy's a real treat.

Thank you, Twilight, for making stalkers acceptable in mainstream romance again. Where would Damon Stafford be without you?

Sometimes, I wish that romance authors would just allow their asshat heroes to remain asshats. Or at least give them incentive to change and become better people. Alas, Damon is just another case of a "tortured" hero haunted by a twagic past. His twin brother died of consumption when Damon was 16, shortly followed by both of his parents in a boating accident. Since grief apparently made Damon feel too many feelings, he's adopted the #1 Romance Hero Cliche Motivation - swearing never to love again. Just ... ugh! A grown man shutting himself off from an emotion that people can't control because of some (admittedly) sad deaths from 15+ years ago doesn't make sense. How can I take a character seriously when he mistreats a woman and refuses to love her just 'cause? It's painfully evident from the beginning that Damon is in Romance Novel Love with Eleanor. In real life, his Romance Novel Love would actually translate to Unhealthy Obsession and Aggression, but whatevs, I'll allow him to be in love in this context.

The most frustrating aspect of Damon's behavior, though, is his disregard for Eleanor's very clear wants and needs. Eleanor insists that she wants to marry for love. Damon admits that he can / will never love her, but he wants her anyway. So he gets her in as many compromising positions as he can and basically kisses the argument out of her. It all seems very heartless, especially when it's brought to light that Damon intentionally got caught with his mistress (no hanky-panky really happened, of course) to push Eleanor into breaking off the engagement because he fucking knew he would never love her and didn't want to hurt her! So why is dragging her into his loveless life two years later okay? Did Damon receive a lobotomy while he was on the continent?

And then there's Eleanor - poor, stupid, silly Eleanor. She's assertive enough about staying away from Damon for all of 15 or so pages, but then she's suddenly making out with him the night of his return. So right away, it's incredibly difficult to take Eleanor's proclamations of wanting him to go away seriously. Because she doesn't want him to go away. She wants to ride that pathetic stallion to a happily-ever-after. As a result of this, I skimmed through page after page of Eleanor's tedious and repetitive inner-monologue. It went like this: "Damon's sexy and hot and his kisses make me super horny, but he can't LOVE me. And if the man I LOVE can't LOVE me, then I'll surely DIE in a LOVELESS marriage to him. So I will continue to pursue the plot device - er - prince, who might come to love me someday even though I clearly don't care for him. Also: I read an unrealistic book by an unrealistic courtesan about capturing a husband. This makes me daring and clever and stuff." Imagine this inane babble over and over again on a loop, and you have fucking Eleanor.

What the hell do courtesans know about marriage anyway? In Regency times, I'm assuming those ladies would have married if they could. So WHY would anyone take advice from an unmarried woman who accepts money and trinkets for sex? In addition, what well-respected lady of the ton would associate with a known courtesan like they're just regular old tea buddies? Lots is said about Eleanor's strict aunt and chaperon, so I can't believe the old biddy would allow her niece to take off on weekly visits with a whore. Logic broke down some time ago, I think.

The writing is not that good. Sure, I've read worse, but the repetition is unforgivable. Jordan definitely passed her limit on the amount of times Eleanor could think or say something like this:

But it is not a love match, Eleanor's heart wanted to protest.

Yes, apparently, Eleanor's heart has the ability to form angsty statements of woe. Sentient hearts are all the rage in Regency England. Then there are love scene quotes that made me guffaw:

"That is better," he said with satisfaction. "Your body has prepared itself for my entry. You're wet with your own honey."

Is Damon a 747 trying to land in Eleanor's vagina? And if her vagina is covered in honey, you're going to have a MAJOR ant problem, sir. Oh, and of course there's the customary anguished declaration of tortured lust by Damon when Eleanor tries out her first blowjob:

Then abruptly he grasped her shoulders and compelled Eleanor to raise her head.

His jaw was knotted tightly, his voice hoarse when he ground out one word: "Enough."

You know, just once I wish one of these heroines would reply to "Enough" with "I'll be done when I say I'm done, asshole. Now lay back and take it like a man."

I don't think I'll be picking up another Nicole Jordan book. My head aches from all the eye-rolling this text elicited from me. But at least I left you with some lovely quotes!

Oh! There's also sex in a hot-air balloon. The balloon isn't up in the air, though. That would be too interesting and deliciously dangerous. So despite my teaser in the summary, no one dies in a hot-air balloon accident. They just crash land and have sex in the basket. Disappointment is hard.