A Most Devilish Rogue
By Ashlyn Macnamara
Publisher: Random House/Ballantine
Release Date: August 27, 2013
George Upperton gives every evidence of being a typical, bored, self-indulgent young aristocrat. He wastes his time and substance drinking and gambling and paying the bills of his extravagant mistress. When his luck turns, it does so with a vengeance. Gambling debts are accumulating beyond his means to meet them, and his mistress announces that she is pregnant. Her brother appears to enforce her exorbitant demands with his fists. When his mother presses him to attend a house party where she plans to introduce him to eligible young women, George agrees, hoping to win enough money in high stakes card games to meet his debts, pay off his mistress and provide for the child, and pay the debts and provide for the family of a friend who committed suicide. It is the last purpose that suggests there may be more to George than appearances indicate.
Isabelle Mears and her young son Jack live in the village near the country estate of George’s friend Benedict Revelstoke (A Most Scandalous Proposal). The daughter of a duke, Isabelle was seduced and abandoned by a rake and cast out by her family when they discovered she was pregnant. Only the hospitality and friendship of a servant Biggles, a healer and herbalist, save her from prostitution. Isabelle is tolerated by the villagers as she helps Biggles prepare and dispense her cures and rears Jack.
George and Isabelle meet when George escapes the house party for a stroll on the beach just as young Jack, a mischievous six-year-old, is caught by a wave and in danger of drowning. George rescues young Jack, but he is surprised when Isabelle responds to the rescue with a mix of gratitude and hostility. She is understandably wary of charming strangers, regardless of how helpful or attractive they are, and George knows that however beautiful the boy’s mother may be, she is a complication he does not need.
The relationship might have ended there had Jack not been kidnapped and a desperate Isabelle approached Revelstoke’s manor house for help. Despite a humiliating scene when one of the guests exposes Isabelle’s shame, George and others commit to searching for Jack. The next day Biggles also disappears. George is Isabelle’s only support during the difficult days that follow with no trace of Jack. The spark of attraction that was between them from their first meeting grows and deepens as they spend time together. But George can’t ignore his other responsibilities, and Isabelle’s pride is an obstacle as great.
Both George and Isabelle are promising characters. I found it refreshing that George is an untitled gentleman, and his suppressed love for music added another interesting dimension to his character. Isabelle’s status as a single mother whose past is common knowledge makes her an unusual heroine, and her years surviving in a world far different than the one into which she was born demonstrate her strength and tenacity. The kidnapping plot was a credible way of placing them in one another’s company and creating an opportunity for intimacy. But I was bothered when character development and the fate of young Jack and Biggles, the only friend Isabelle has had since she was disowned by her family, became mere background for sizzling scenes between George and Isabelle. The Most Devilish Rogue is not a bad book, but for me it is a disappointing one.
Kidnapping plots are common in romance fiction. Sometimes they work wonderfully well, and sometimes they are too clearly contrived. Do you like kidnapping plot? What romance authors have used it most effectively?