Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Review: A Rogue By Any Other Name

A Rogue by Any Other Name
By Sarah MacLean
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 28, 2012

Michael Lawler, Marquess of Bourne, was hardly more than a boy when he lost everything to Viscount Langford, the man who had been his guardian. All the young marquess had left was his title, a deep hunger for revenge, and a determination to one day reclaim Falconwell, the estate that had been home to generations of his family. Nearly a decade later, Bourne is far wealthier than he was before the card game that altered his life, thanks to a partnership in the Fallen Angel, one of the most exclusive gaming hells in London, and his desire for revenge has only intensified with the passage of time.  When he learns that Langford lost Falconwell to the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, who has made it part of the dowry of his daughter Penelope, Bourne sees his chance to act.

At 28, Lady Penelope Marbury is only a step away from spinsterhood, but her parents, especially her father, are  determined that her next step will be into matrimony. Marriage to a peer will disperse the scandal of a broken engagement that has not been forgotten even though it is eight years in the past. For the sake of her two younger sisters as well as for her own good, Penelope must be married. She has opportunities, but ever since she caught a glimpse of the love between her former fiancé and the woman he married (Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart), Penelope has wanted more than the proper match for which she has been prepared. She prefers spinsterhood to boredom.

When Penelope sees Bourne unexpectedly one night, she is delighted at first. The two had been childhood friends, and she has fond memories of Michael. But she quickly learns that Bourne, who insists she no longer address him as Michael, is very different from the light-hearted youth she once knew well. Bourne will marry Penelope even if he must ruin her to accomplish his goal, but he sees her only as a means of achieving his goals. He will not allow himself to be affected by memories or by the warmth and wit of the woman in his arms. Marriage to Bourne offers Penelope adventure and a life different from the one her parents plan for her, but Bourne’s heart is so consumed be his need for revenge that there is little hope that their “love match” will ever be more than a pretense.

A Rogue by Any Other Name is the first in a new series about four scandalous aristocrats who have created a new life for themselves as part of London’s underworld. It has the multi-dimensional characters and excellent writing that marked her debut series. It was darker than I expected, but the darkness is relieved by flashes of humor. Readers who enjoyed MacLean’s earlier series will doubtless enjoy this one as well.

I love Penelope. I found her an appealing character in Eleven Scandals, and even though I feared her night walk in the snow identified her as a TSTL heroine, I was soon captured by her honesty with herself, her vulnerability, and her willingness to risk a lot for what she wants. For much of the book, I thought Bourne was a jerk. The only thing that kept me from writing him off was the person revealed in the letters his younger self had written to Penelope. The letters—his and hers—were a delight, and I kept hoping that at least traces of the humor and heart of the Michael of the letters survived within the embittered Bourne. Redemption comes, but it was a long wait.

But Penelope’s instincts were good. I never found Bourne boring. I recommend A Rogue by Any Other Name to readers who love a tortured hero or a different take on the marriage of convenience story.  I look forward to the second book in the series, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (November 2012) and to the other books that follow.

We seem to be seeing a number of series recently that move us away from ballrooms, house parties, and other conventional tonnish pursuits. Are you pleased to see the changes, or are you a traditionalist?


PJ said...

I can't wait to read this one! Sarah MacLean has become one of my "go to" authors.

I don't mind a move away from the ballrooms. Not that I want it to be a permanent move but I enjoy a little variety in my reading. Give me a well-written book with characters I care about and you can take me just about anywhere.

Jane said...

I'm a huge fan of Sarah's books and can't wait for "A Rogue By Any Other Name." I do like variety and it's nice to get away from the ballroom once in a while.

quantum said...

I seem to recall that Sarah is another writer spawned in the bon-bon stable on the old EJ-BB; though I don't recall her drabbling at all.

As an honorary bon-bon myself, I feel obligated to support the bon-bon writers when I can, so must give this a try, especially as PJ and Jane agree that it's good.

I'm quite pleased that some regencies are moving away from the conventional scenes.

For example, I often wonder about life below stairs with romance flourishing perhaps between the village blacksmith who has a talent for cricket and the pretty ladies maid from the manor house!

Janga said...

Sorry to be so late responding, y'all. Life has been hectic!

PJ, characters are what matter most to me, and Sarah MacLean has created some wonderful characters. She's been on my autobuy list since I read Nine Rules.

Janga said...

Jane, I like variety too. Like PJ, I would not want to forego the ballrooms, but I do enjoy adding other setting to my reading mix.

Janga said...

Q, I knew Nine Rules was a book of the month on the old EJ/JQ board, but I didn't ralize Sarah was a Bon Bon.

I wonder how successful a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs romance would be. Anne Gracie does a bit of that in some of her books.