A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

BLURB

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets. . . A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to an unexplored world of pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s illicit underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . .even her heart.

RHL CLASSIFICATIONS

Regency Historical Romance

Heat Rating 2

Reviewer rating:3.5 stars

REVIEW BY PATRICE:

Occasionally, I must begin a review with humor and a disclaimer which can’t hurt.  So, here goes…

When you’ve loved reading historical romance for years and years, until nothing else would do, three things might happen.  First, you end up with a winding list of favorite authors and novels to revisit.  Often.  Next, you develop a preference for periods and archetypes.  Finally, you discover that you’ve developed a penchant for a specific plot device, and once this is acknowledged, you must face the reality that somewhere, somehow, your reader’s luck will run out.  Once a novel escapes the unrealistically lodged whims residing within your reviewer brain, you’ll dissolve into a mound of gelatin desperately desirous of extolling the hard work and commitment of the author, while unable to disconnect the Three Things Above.  The Three Things Above is what occurred while reading A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean.

My only saving grace at this point, as a lackaday reviewer, is to move on to synopsis, pros and cons, and closing thoughts in an attempt to redeem myself.

Synopsis Overview

Michael Lawler, the Marquis of Bourne, is the quintessential archetype; a good boy forced into becoming a bad man, yet is never quite able to divorce his soul and heart from his decent upbringing.  His inheritance is gone and he must do all that he can to retrieve it, including marry.  Then you have Lady Penelope Marbury, his childhood sweetie, who is nearly forced into spinsterhood by a scandal not of her making.   Bourne and Penelope are slapped around by Fate’s cruelty and molded into people who are stronger, wiser, and in desperate need of love and salvation.  Michael needs to be redeemed from his cold, calculating desire for vengeance against the man who ruined him.  Penelope clings to the hope that through self-sacrifice, she will save her two remaining sisters from unhappy marriages—or worse, becoming ape leaders.   Ok, this is promising, a nobleman (Bourne) who is a partner in a gaming hell and the former darling of the ton (Penelope), who longs for adventure in her life if all else fails.

Overall, the plot is character driven, fueled by emotions and misunderstandings.  The main stage is the gaming hell, ton society, and how the protagonists manage the ins and outs of respectability, family, and everything else.

PROS

Despite my unfair comparisons, the character development is excellent.  Penelope is considered plain, and Ms. MacLean’s characterization shows you what makes her truly remarkable to everyone.  I appreciated seeing her through Bourne’s eyes and his partners’.  The ton members, if they had heart, could see Penelope’s shining soul, and if they were superficial, miserable types, mocked her.  The ton always represents the outside world we deal with, the various people in it, and how we maneuver.  The author’s approach to Penelope’s limitations as a noblewoman during the 19th Century is solid because this heroine has the courage to strategize within the boundaries of life.  I admired Penelope and her confidence in knowing who she was, her assertiveness, and selfless acceptance of others.

Bourne, or Michael as he is called by Penelope, spends the entire novel denying his heroic nature so that he can ruthlessly destroy his enemies.  His character is not quite as developed as Penelope’s but was not lacking in the plot.  I get him, and so will readers.  He’s likeable and it was a kick watching him shift from steely to vulnerable; watching as Penelope grew from feeling weak and inadequate, to being resilient and fearless.  This woman has such spirit and intelligence, that at times, she overshadowed Bourne.

The secondary characters are all interesting; Penelope’s father and her sisters, Philippa/Pippa and Olivia, Bourne’s gaming hell partners, his housekeeper, Worth, and Mr. West, the journalist.  I had mixed feelings about Tommy, Penelope’s and Bourne’s childhood friend, in his tentative role as third wheel in the triangle, would-be hero, voice-of-reason, and victim.

CONS

The villain is as predictable and faint as an Impressionist painting with bold outlines but no rich color.  He was more or less a plot device, used to catalyst change in much the same way the supporting characters did for Penelope and Bourne and their relationship, yet with less oomph.

The visual aspects of the novel were vivid but lacking in that I had to guess my way around the period.  So much occurred in the 1800’s that if you don’t know your history, you aren’t clear about the era.  Travels abroad to places like India and Africa are giveaways, but I’m a sucker for details.  Ms. MacLean’s focus is on the protagonists/antagonists by making this a character driven story with people who have strong motivations.

One aspect that annoyed me was the letters, except for the final one which made me smile.  I found them disruptive and distracting.  Yes, I do realize this is a time honored device used in writing (Austen, Shelly etc.) to include letters and diary entries as part of the plot.  My attempt to get past my feelings towards this was futile.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The ending was good but I set my expectations too high and not in keeping with this style of writing or the characters.  Far more discriminating individuals loved this book. Ms. MacLean is a darned fine writer, it’s not her concern that I read Then Came You and Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas first and can’t get over it.

Suffice to say, that I feel like the proverbial gal who just went on a date with Mr. Perfection. Yet I can’t get over that hot guy that sometimes snatches me up for thrills.  Both dates are perfect but the timing was wrong.  Just as in reality, life and reading don’t always work that way.  My final note is to ignore my issues and reread this book.  With that said, historical romance lovers will enjoy A Rogue by Any Other Name without beating themselves over the head, or dating Mr. Wrong.

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