The Naked King
by Sally MacKenzie
The Naked King marks the ninth and final installment in Sally MacKenzie's “Naked Series.” As with previous books the title does not represent the title our hero actually holds, but instead a nickname. Mr. Stephen Parker-Roth was dubbed “The King of Hearts” for his incredible ability with…cards, or at least that the way he tells it. No one ever really believed him though, and since we were never told the story of how it came about we are left to wonder.
Ten years ago, Anne attended a country house party shortly before she was set for her come-out in London. She met a man there who charmed her into believing she was in love. One of the evenings, he took her to the garden, kissed her, lifted her skirts, did the deed quickly (so quickly Anne didn't have a chance to say no) and then left. Broken-hearted she returned home. Since her step-mother was increasing with twins, she used the pregnancy to escape her first season. Since her father and stepmother were more interested in antiquities then the children, raising her sister and the twins allowed Anne to ignore the next nine seasons.
Now Anne is being put in charge of her sister's debut. Her father and step-mother drop Anne, her sister and twin brothers off at their Aunt's house before departing on an antiquities hunt. The Aunt has a fascination with birds that causes her to spend all her time in the library reading books (excusing the fact that one would think someone fascinated with birds would spend time outside looking for them rather than reading, we continue on). Needless to say, Anne is the only one around to run herd on her siblings and their unruly dog.
She is walking the dog one morning when the dog decides to run and jump on Mr. Stephen Parker-Roth. It might be morning, but for a man that hasn't made it home yet from the nights frivolities, it is quite impossible to keep your balance when drunk and a dog jumps on you. Of course, when meeting someone new in just this fashion the first thing you should do is take their bonnet, throw it in the mud and smash it with your foot because you find the bonnet drab and unappealing. And then you must follow that piece of madness up by grabbing the woman you have just met and kiss her in broad daylight in Hyde Park. So when the biggest gossip in town see's you, you have no choice but to propose marriage.
Anne and her aunt both see the engagement as a way to avoid gossip but don't expect the marriage to happen. Stephen, on the other hand, has decided that Anne is just the woman for him, since he was thinking about settling down anyways. As Anne gets to know Stephen more, she finds she wouldn't mind being married to him, but believes he could never want her. Anne's aunt makes a point of telling both of them that since this is a faux engagement to make sure not to ruin Anne's reputation any further, but then proceeds to leave them alone…over and over again.
As you can tell…I wasn't particularly pleased with this book. To start with, the first two-thirds of the book occurred all in one day. Granted, that one day included enough plot to fill a week, and in fact a lot of the storyline would make more sense if it wasn't squeezed into this small time frame, but still we spent the majority of the book in one day. Then the last third was over several and the timeframe really blurred.
On top of the timeline, there was the mere silliness used in most of the plot devices. Stephen's nickname lends to a certain amount of experience with woman, and although he repeatedly says he is very discreet with women, he kisses her at ten in the morning in the park! He blames it on being drunk. I'm sorry, but I have to blame it on an author that can't think of any other way to compromise these characters.
Believe me, I could continue on and on about this book, but I think you're probably getting the point. I have to finish by saying that the part I found the worst, was that I really liked Stephen and Anne's characters. I think Ms. MacKenzie did a great job in writing their personalities and for that matter the personalities of all the characters. I just didn't enjoy the situations she put them in and through. It makes me sad to have these great characters and not be happy with the story they lived.
“The Ninth and Final Installment in the Naked Series.”
June 2011, 353 pages
Lady Anne Marston, now 27, is considered a spinster, but secretly, she hasn't given up on finding "the one." Despite her disregard for London society, she joins her younger half-sister, Evie, for a visit, in which Evie plans to find a husband. Instead, it's Anne who crosses paths with the infamous (and drunken) Stephen Parker-Roth, a.k.a. the "King of Hearts," because of his skill at seduction. When an impromptu kiss is witnessed, Stephens steps up and pretends they are betrothed - an idea that surprisingly, appeals to them both.