REVIEW: The Casanova Code by Donna MacMeansMonday, July 2, 2012 1:00
I was hoping when I started this book there would be plenty of action interspersed with the heroine’s ability to read patterns and decode most anything given to her and the romance. Unfortunately, while we get a bit of mystery, even a little bit of action is nearly non-existent and the romance doesn’t truly come alive until the last quarter of the book.
As children Edwina and her brothers made up codes for each other to break. That tradition, so to speak, is still alive and well, and Edwina looks forward to those letters from her brothers still to this day. She’s become quite proficient at deciphering most any code she comes across. To break up the boredom of her days, she scours the local newspaper ads from those people sending coded messages to others. One day she finds an ad from a notorious rake, Casanova, aka Ashton Trewelyn, advertising for a future wife. Just knowing this has to be a scam to lure innocent girls into scandal, Edwina and her friends, dubbing themselves The Rake Patrol, take it upon their moral selves to intercept any women who answer Casanova’s plea and warn them of the impending danger.
Now, really. This is sort of silly. I mean, how do these women know this? Of course, they don’t. They’re surmising. Guessing. Whatever. All because of the man’s reputation. He’s only returned from the war after being injured, his life saved by the man he placed the ad for. Yep. There’s a logical explanation for his ad, but Edwina and Patrol have too much time on their hands. On top of all that, Ash’s attitude has changed since looking death in the eye. He’s no longer the rake he was, wanting to make a good life for himself, and still trying to garner his father’s respect and admiration. So he heads to the local tea shop the nice young lady at the newspaper recommended to him for his interviews of prospective brides. How lucky for him he just met his first Rake Patrol member.
Ash figures out what Edwina is doing and confronts her. There’s some semi-attraction between them, it isn’t the hit-you-in-the-face kind, but you feel it anyway. He’s tired of the type of woman he bedded before, the ones who are still after him now that he’s back. She knows she doesn’t have a chance for a man like Ash, he’s a Casanova anyway, but that doesn’t stop Edwina from liking what she sees. Amid all of this, another ad in code pops up and Edwina thinks she’s really on to something this time. A secret meeting of the Guardians is to be held at the Trewelyn house. Thinking something nefarious is going on and Ashton is involved, the ladies of the Patrol stake out his home, ending with Edwina being caught inside and the rest of the women looking silly when they rush to the front door to rescue her.
Thus begins Edwina’s sexual education when she’s trapped with Ash in his father’s “secret room,” where all of his Japanese sensual artifacts are kept. I know that in her descriptions of these items, along with Edwina’s innocence, Ms. MacMeans is trying to convey their meaning as well as describe to readers all things sexual in a different way we haven’t read before. Doesn’t work. It only makes Edwina look that much sillier and naive. As does her situation when one of the smaller items gets caught up in her umbrella and the way in which she tries to return it, thinking Ash would believe she stole it. It’s the way she goes about it that has him believing she absconded with it in the first place.
The whole Guardian thing is a red herring, for me. It could have led to some interesting adventures, but even when Ash gets involved, it’s only a way to get into his father’s good graces and into the Guardians, which really isn’t all that big of a deal. He’s the one who gets into scrapes and a bit of adventure, leaving Edwina in London to doubt his feelings. This part of the story is actually a huge let-down, even the surprise or two that pops up for Ash. Which really shouldn’t have been a surprise.
It’s when Ash returns home and Edwina finally sees him again, and they get past her very fertile imagination, that the romance truly begins. Too late in my book. There’s just too many things that don’t work, too much silliness going on in the way of presumptions and guesswork that only lead to trouble, not enough of Edwina’s code breaking ability – at least for something worthwhile – and too little romance. I’m rather disappointed because I like the concept behind the book and characters. It’s just not executed well enough for me.
“A refined gentleman, age 25, of wealth and education, seeks the acquaintance, with a view to matrimony, of a high-minded, kind-hearted lady who prefers an evening of quiet conversation to the lively demands of society.”
Edwina Hargrove knows that this “gentleman” was, in fact, Ashton Trewelyn, a rake notorious for seducing the young and naive. In fact, five decent women have already been tricked and bundled off to the continent for scandalous purposes. There was a way to thwart his scheme though—by shadowing this devilishly handsome Casanova and warning his prey.
Read an excerpt.