Tour’s Books Blog

June 28, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase

Every so often I need the equivalent of a palate cleansing course in a meal when it comes to books. I keep a re-read pile for a good reason, it’s there that I find just the perfect ‘flavor’ to clean my taste buds and remind what really good writing is all about. Last month I re-read Lord Perfect. This month I chose another Carsington novel, Mr. Impossible. All I can say is thank heavens for Loretta Chase.

Rupert Carsington is the ne’er do well son of the Earl of Hargate. Charming, brawny, carefree, affable, a man with a strong sense of right and wrong, he’s never been the brains of the family, but he’s not dullard most think. He does have a talent for attracting trouble that borders on genius and has cost his father a small fortune. Hargate cuts Rupert’s allowance off and ships his hide off to Egypt to help the consul general to do something useful for a change. Mr. Salt feels like he’s been given a terrible burden, not help! He’d like nothing more than to ship Rupert back, but then he’d likely land somewhere at the end of the Earth for annoying Lord Hargate, so he’s stuck with paying yet another bribe to get Rupert out of the Pasha’s dungeon.

Daphne Pembroke is a very wealthy young widow with a talent for languages and a thirst for hieroglyphs and finally figuring out how to translate them. In 1821 women scholars are not recognized, so Daphne’s brother, Miles Archdale, is the one who is the ‘respected scholar’ in her place. Now Miles is missing. The Caliphate of Egypt is not a safe place for Europeans. What little government there is tends to be who has the most men and weapons at any given time, currently the Turks. Fear for Miles’ life sends Daphne to the British Consul General to request aid. Mr. Salt (a genuine historical figure) sees a solution to three problems: Mrs. Pembroke is wealthy enough to buy Rupert’s way out of the dungeon. Rupert can then act as the designated ‘investigator’ to aide Mrs. Pembroke and keep her satisfied the consul is doing his job. Mr. Salt keeps the money to buy more Egyptian artifacts, his primary mission in Egypt. There is no down side here – well, except Rupert.

Rupert’s irreverent good nature and unrepentant humor seriously annoys his would be savior, Mrs. Pembroke, as she barters for his release from the dungeon and she’s seriously tempted to just leave the annoying man there. He obviously hasn’t the brains to help find her brother. Finally, she buys his release, at a vastly reduced rate, and Mr. Salt tells him his one and only job is to keep Mrs. Pembroke happy, make her believe that ‘something was being done’ to locate her wayward brother – who was likely in a whorehouse or opium den. Rupert quickly realizes that Daphne is no fool and isn’t about to be put off. She drags him to Lord Noxley’s house in hopes of gaining the man’s aid.

Noxley is not at all the handsome, refined, man he seems. It’s Rupert who realizes he’s a liar and a hypocrite and dubs him ‘Noxious’, much to Daphne’s annoyance. Noxley and Frenchman Duval have a rivalry for the acquisition of antiquities and the fame and money that accompanies their discovery. Belzoni’s discoveries and the fame he garnered from them infuriated long time Egyptian scholars and experts and Noxley wants both fame and wealth. Mrs. Pembroke will bring him the wealth and her scholar brother, Miles, will bring him the fame. But much to his annoyance, Miles was grabbed by his arch competitor – France’s Duval, a 20 year veteran of Egypt and a man willing to do whatever it takes to win.

A spectacular papyrus was purchased by Miles and both Duval and Noxley are aware of it and both are convinced that Miles will be able to start deciphering hieroglyphs and discover a royal tomb whose location is said to be in the scroll. (The book is set one year before Champollion publishes his work on translations from the Rosetta Stone. Many of his language skills are given to Daphne.) Keep in mind, the kind of scientific excavating of ruins were begun by Sir Flinders Petrie in the late 1800’s, so at this point in history, especially under the control of the Turks, Egypt was something of free-for-all in the pillaging of antiquities and France and England competed with bribes, bullying and smuggling to get their prizes out of Egypt.In this milieu personal acrimony, kidnapping, and outright theft were not at all uncommon. The problem is they kidnapped the wrong sibling. Miles cannot help them. He has marginal linguistic skills at best.

Daphne is in a ‘state’, unwilling to sit around while Noxley and Rupert search, so when Rupert heads to the pyramids, Daphne goes with him. The guides abandon them at the heart of the Great Pyramid without any light. Rupert, who has a cool head, gets them out. He also quickly discovers that Daphne has a morbid fear of enclosed spaces. They are promptly arrested for murdering their guides, both of whom were found with their throats cut. The impossibility of their having done it cannot compete with the bribe placed to get them arrested. Once released, they discover Noxley has taken his famous river boat, Memmnon, south toward Thebes. Daphne is furious and fully expects Rupert to try and stop her from following Noxley. Instead, Rupert is delighted and somehow even manages to get the sheik who arrested them to commander them a fine boat with an experienced and reliable captain.

Rupert is not at all the kind of man she thought him and in the intimate confines of the boat, Daphne is unable to escape her growing attraction to him. Rupert, who was immediately attracted to Daphne, just by her voice and the way she haggled over him in the dungeon, is feeling the stress her proximity is causing him. They finally give into their attraction and Daphne finally learns it’s alright to be passionate, a trait her husband berated her for.

If this all sounds very like the plot to The Mummy, it is. There are some plot tweaks and no special effects, but The Mummy and Mr. Impossible are fraternal twins right up to the ending. Rupert is not your typical Regency romance hero – aside from the tall, dark and handsome part. He’s a younger son, no wealth and plainly none coming his way as his father has cut him off, unabashedly good natured, deeply dislikes killing – even when necessary – though he does enjoy a good brawl, is utterly content with a woman smarter than he is, and is delighted she has temper. Daphne is the daughter of a vicar and the widow of another one who made her ashamed of her intelligence, her passion, her temper, and her desire – both physical and her desire for knowledge and learning. Rupert is so utterly different, he baits her to anger because he loves seeing her blazing mad. He wants her passion and admires her intelligence.

Rupert and Daphne, despite being ripped from the pages of The Mummy, are a delightful couple and their story is well written and filled with atmosphere. The entire cast of  Mr. Impossible is quite large and even secondary characters are well developed. The pacing is fast, without being breathless. All around a very good Romance read by a first rate writer.

My Grade: B+ (4.25*) ( I did deduct for the borrowing of characters and plot from The Mummy.)

Who would enjoy this book: Fans of Loretta Chase, Johanna Lindsey’s Mallory Family series, and Stephanie Laurens’s Cynster series. IMHO Chase is much better than Laurens. The rating for this book is PG-13.


1 Comment »

  1. hi there! i’ve been following ur blog for some time and just wanted to say thanks for doing such extremely thorough reviews! this one went immediately on my TBR list.

    Comment by couchpapaya — June 29, 2009 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

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