Tag Archive | Erica Monroe

Stealing the Rogue’s Heart (Rookery Rogues #4) by Erica Monroe

stealing the rogue's heart

WHEN AN UNDERWORLD PRINCESS…

Beautiful, innocent Mina Mason has led a sheltered life as the sister to the most notorious crime lord in England. Her family’s wealth and expectations keep her in a gilded cage, never able to act on her true desires. Like kissing — and engaging in far more scandalous behavior with–Charlie Thatcher, her childhood best friend. As a member of a rival gang, Charlie is distinctly off-limits.

FALLS FOR THE WRONG MAN…

Charlie Thatcher has known since he was a boy where his loyalties should lie: with the Chapman Street Thieves, who saved him from a brutal death in the dark alleys of the Ratcliffe rookery. As a bartender for the Three Boars public house, he protects his fellow brothers with his mind and his fists. But when one of those members threatens Mina’s safety, Charlie’s primal, protective instincts are triggered–and his defense of her puts them both in danger.

PASSION MAY BE THEIR DOWNFALL.

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Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, January 2017
Time and Setting: London, 1833
Genre: Historical Romance novella
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

Two street gangs, both alike in villainy,
In filthy London where we lay our scene.
From old rivalries to a fragile peace,
Torn asunder fighting for a girl’s esteem.

There is nothing like a romance between star-crossed lovers. The conflicts seem insurmountable but the emotions are almost as large to keep characters fighting for their relationship. In Stealing the Rogue’s Heart, Erica Monroe borrows a little from Romeo and Juliet to set the stage for her tale of love ripped apart by the brutality of the London slums.

In the Rookeries, loyalty to your gang is more important than blood or family. Control of the East End between three equally powerful street gangs: the Kings, the Chapman Street Gang and the Tanners, has kept the area in a state of relative peace for many years. Unfortunately the death of the Tanners’ leader has created a power vacuum that the other two gangs are ready to fill. Tensions are high but Mina Mason has always found a safe refuge from the danger in the company of her good friend Charlie Thatcher. Mina’s position as the younger sister of the Kings’ leader has kept her insulated from threats and Charlie’s ties to the Chapman Street Gang have also shielded her from unwanted attention. Little does Mina realize that her feelings of safety and protection are an illusion easily shattered.

Charlie has loved Mina for almost as long as he’s known her but his allegiance to the Chapman Street Gang doesn’t exactly put him in a position to court her. The Mason family is viewed as near royalty within the Rookeries and Mina has grown up with every convenience the Kings’ money can buy her. Charlie has had to content himself with being Mina’s friend and companion when she leaves her virtual palace to sit in his bar while he works. What Charlie doesn’t realize is that Mina’s reasons for being at his workplace have everything to do with her own deep feelings for him. She has long known that her love for Charlie goes well beyond the friendship he offers. One word from him and Mina would give up all of the luxuries her name affords her to live a simple life with a man who appreciates her for herself and not what her connections would bring.

Mina’s fear that her brother is planning to marry her off to someone loyal to the Kings has her hiding where she is the most comfortable – in Charlie’s pub. Unaware that hostilities between the gangs has reached its boiling point Mina makes the mistake of lingering too long within Chapman Street Gang territory and catches the eye of the wrong man. When he tries to assault her, Mina finds protection in Charlie’s arms; however the fight that ensues in the bar lights a fuse within both groups and Mina’s brother feels the time is right to make his power play andMina becomes a bargaining chip in his plans for more money and influence. Charlie’s actions to defend Mina put a target on his back by his own people and the murder of his opponent in the bar fight forces them to make an example of his perceived disloyalty. With an all-out war on the horizon Mina and Charlie must decide if their devotion to each other is stronger than any influence the gangs have on their lives.

The Rookery Rogues series is like a unicorn within the genre of Historical Romance. The setting and all of the characters are far, far away from the nobility or lavish country estates normally found in such stories . Mina, for as much as she is a rich girl within the sphere that she and Charlie come from, is still living off money gained through criminal activities. Charlie comes from almost nothing and his position in the Chapman Street Gang has forced him to fight or steal just to keep his place as a trusted lieutenant in the organization. The odds are against their ever escaping the rookeries but they both cling to the small bit of happiness they find in each other. Both characters are exceedingly likeable even if the circumstances they live in are dreary or perhaps more on the morally grey spectrum.

I haven’t read the other stories within this series; however Stealing the Rogue’s Heart seems to be a tipping point for serious changes within the Rookeries and both gangs. Watching Charlie and Mina come together while the worlds of the Kings and Chapman Street Gang are poised to fall apart makes this simple love story even more complex. Erica Monroe has just gained herself a new fan and I’ll be interested to see if the events here will be mentioned in future stories.

Beauty and the Rake (Rookery Rogues #3) by Erica Monroe

beauty and the rake

ONCE SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL…

Abigail Vautille grew up in the heart of the London rookeries, toiling as a factory worker until one tragic night leaves her disfigured and unable to weave. Faced with starvation or prostitution, she strikes a deal with the rogue who owns her father’s gambling debts—if he excuses the debt, for two weeks, she’ll give him her body, but not her heart.

ONCE HE WAS CHARMING…

Inspector Michael Strickland of the Metropolitan Police has always had a way with women. Success comes easily to him, and he glides through life on his good looks and family name. But Abigail lights a passion within him he never knew existed. As he gets to know her, he realizes two weeks with her won’t be enough. He sees the beauty within her, not the beast she believes herself to be.

TOGETHER, THEIR LOVE IS BEYOND A FAIRY TALE.

Yet Abigail’s scars run more than skin deep. With the end of their agreement so close, can Michael convince Abigail she’s exactly who he wants?

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Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1832
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

Unusually for historical romances set in 19th Century England, the books in Erica Monroe’s Rookery Rogues series take place principally in the slums and backstreets of London, and their protagonists are people from the working or middle classes. In Beauty and the Rake, the third of the series, the heroine is Abigail Vautille, a young factory worker who is no longer able to earn her living as a weaver owing to an injury to her left hand.

The sole support of her broken-down, gambling-addict father and much younger sister, Abigail worked at the factory run by the Larkers, who, in the previous book, were exposed as the heads of a wide-reaching criminal syndicate. When Abigail agreed to help her friend Poppy to expose the Larkers and bring them to justice, Abigail was captured and cruelly tortured by their hired muscle, Frank Clowes, her mangled hand now a constant reminder of her past and of the betrayal by the woman she had once regarded as her closest friend.

With no other means of earning a living and keeping her father out of debtor’s prison, Abigail has only one option open to her. All she has left to sell is herself, and while being a rich man’s mistress would be preferable to becoming a streetwalker, she is under no illusions about the step she is about to take. Heading to her father’s favourite gambling den in order to retrieve him one evening, she is aghast to discover that he owes two hundred pounds to his latest opponent. They have no money, so Abigail offers herself to her father’s opponent, a strikingly handsome man she does not know. She will spend the next two weeks in his bed in full payment of the debt, and after that, she hopes she will have learned enough of the courtesan’s arts to be able to attract a protector.

Inspector Michael Strickland knows he shouldn’t be in a gaming den but he’s tired of following the rules and of trying to live up to expectations he knows he can never fulfil. He can’t believe his eyes or his luck when Abigail makes her offer; her lovely face has haunted his dreams, and now here she is, offering herself to him. What Abigail can’t know is that Michael is weighed down by guilt over the fact that his carelessness led to her capture and torture; he had information about Clowes that he delayed acting upon which gave the villain the time to find and maim Abigail. Michael wants her badly – and also reasons that he’ll be doing her a favour by being her first ‘client’. He’ll treat her well and then have a word with some of the madams he knows to see if he can find her a place in one of the nicer whorehouses where she can command a higher going rate.

Not long after the bargain is struck, Strickland receives a note from Clowes, who has escaped custody, threatening Abigail’s life. He decides not to tell her – after all, she will be living in his house for the next two weeks and he will be able to protect her in person while also working to bring about the criminal’s recapture.

The story that follows is principally devoted to the slowly developing romance between Abigail and Michael. Although she is prepared to become his mistress immediately, Michael finds he doesn’t want her to come to him simply because of their bargain; he wants her to want him and the delay gives them time to get to know each other before they finally become lovers. The mystery element doesn’t really come into play until quite late on in the book, and I found Abigail’s reaction upon discovering that Michael’s actions – or lack of them – could possibly have contributed to her injuries to be rather over the top and contrived. On the positive side, however, the author’s descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of the rookeries, and of the harsh lives led by their inhabitants are very evocative, and she makes very clear that these people are as far removed from the glittering world of the ton as it’s possible to be. I have to say, though, that Abigail does not at all sound like a young woman who has grown up in the worst areas of London and who has had little to no education. I can’t imagine such a woman uttering things like: ”We are creatures of malcontent, pressed further and further back into these dark corners until eventually we shall all smother each other.” And it’s unlikely she would have been able to read or write, yet she enjoys reading essays by Swift and Voltaire’s Candide.

In her author’s note, Ms Monroe speaks of her love for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and how both Michael and Abigail possess elements of both those characters (for eagle eyed readers, there are several references in the text to certain elements of the movie version). Both are lovely to look at, yet Abigail is a bitter woman on the inside, one who has been robbed of all her choices, first by an irresponsible parent and then because her injured hand means she can no longer find honest work. And Michael, who has spent most of his life among the people of the slums, is indifferent to the hardships they face, preoccupied with his own sins and the guilt he carries for them. Gradually, they help each other to face their demons and emerge stronger as a result of their mutual love and trust.

In spite the reservations I’ve mentioned, and of the occurrence of a few modern turns of phrase and Americanisms, Beauty and the Rake is a well-written and developed romance between a pair of engaging protagonists. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for whatever Ms Monroe writes next.

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

secrets scarlet
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When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve. Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, September 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, Industrial Revolution
Genre: Historical Romance with mystery elements
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Susan

Secrets in Scarlet is a story that readers can fall in love with instantly. Its hero, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight (who is aptly named), is the heroine’s champion, a champion of the innocent in particular the heroine, Poppy O’Reilly’s daughter, and a champion of the wrongfully accused specifically Poppy’s brother Daniel. A romantic historical hero in every sense of the label, Knight makes audiences believe in the goodness of human nature.

A fascinating tale that is very well-written with a cast of believable characters, Secrets in Scarlet provides a unique perspective on Regency England, addressing the dismal conditions of London’s rookeries, the unconscionable oppression imposed on factory workers, and the lucrative prospects of engaging in criminal activities such as coin clipping, counterfeiting, and trafficking/fencing goods.

Depicting England’s underprivileged is a challenge, requiring the author to give audiences a grasp of guttersnipe and the cockney lingo, which is something Ms Monroe manages admirably.

She shows not only a keen understanding of Regency England’s disadvantaged and neglected but also of the atmosphere emerging during the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The intricate details about weaving textiles and fabrics and using looms are written intelligently, dotted with historical facts and interspersed with interesting dialogue and narration that enables the reader to observe the situation first-hand. The story is well paced with perceptive annotations so audiences can keep up with the evolving stages of the plot, which entails a murder mystery and the amorous feelings blossoming between Thaddeus and Poppy.

The story is written from the point of view of the un-affluent, projecting a sympathy for their hardship and struggles which touches a sensitive chord in readers. It’s a cheerful moment when Poppy and Thaddeus find their way to each other amidst obstacles such as the lies which Poppy espouses to safeguard her family and Thaddeus’ insecurities which deny him from believing he’s an honorable man deserving of a woman who loves him. Secrets in Scarlet is a moving love story that depicts happiness flourishing among the deprived of Regency England. It’s refreshing to see that happiness isn’t exclusive to England’s privileged aristocracy, and the author makes such an ideal seem attainable in this time period.

A Dangerous Invitation by Erica Monroe

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Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of fine things as a fence for stolen goods in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries. The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.

One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.

With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them.

Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, January 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1832
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Susan

The underground world of London’s rookeries in 19th century England is the backdrop for Erica Monroe’s romantic drama A Dangerous Invitation. While most historical romance authors delve into the lifestyles of the English beau monde defined by earls and their countesses, dukes and their duchesses, and marquises and their marchionesses, Monroe is inspired to write a love match that blossoms in the poverty-stricken slums of East London, those districts that Charles Dickens wrote about in his novels The Adventures of Oliver Twist and The Old Curiosity Shop.

A Dangerous Invitation – the first book in Monroe’s series The Rookery Rogues – takes place in 1832, a time when the rise in corpses delivered to hospitals by grave robbers, (also known as “Resurrection Men”) and the London Burkers, has appalled the public and influenced the English Parliament to pass the Anatomy Act of 1832. Monroe integrates the circumstances which led up to the public uproar and implementation of the 1832 act into the love story, conjuring an abiding romance amidst the dramatic events. The dusting of historical facts injected into the story enhances the plot’s credibility and give readers a reference point for the romance.

The heroine and hero, Kate Morgan and Daniel O’Reilly respectively, are flawed characters whose struggle and tendre for one another link them together. Both fall from grace and are condemned to a life of hardship and disenchantment. Morgan, the daughter of Richard Morgan who owned and operated the recently defunct Emporia Shipping, is ruined and penniless. She is tossed into East London’s squalor living among bawdy houses and brothels, earning her income in the stolen goods racket by finding buyers for merchandise that’s been wrongfully appropriated by thieves. Her fall from grace is propelled by her boyfriend, Daniel O’Reilly, an assistant to her father at Emporia. Daniel is accused of viciously murdering Tommy Dalton, a warehouse laborer at Emporia and a member of Jasper Finn’s gang of grave robbers.

The reader comes into story as Daniel re-enters Kate’s life three years after he runs away from his trial for Dalton’s murder. Monroe spoon feeds audiences in digestible increments, never overloading them with background details yet supplying sizable information which makes them want to invest their time in Kate and Daniel’s story. Secondary characters are essential to moving the story ahead, discovering who framed Daniel for Dalton’s murder and the identities of Jasper Finn’s gang who are behind Dalton‘s murder and the downfall of Emporia.

Monroe has an inclination for turning thieves into heroes, like Daniel’s friend Atlas Greer and Kate‘s friend Owen Neal.  She sheds light on the prejudices brought up against the Irish in 19th century England, showing sympathy for them particularly through Kate. The stereotypes foisted on the Irish as criminals and the wrongful accusations made against them are recurring themes through the story.

The author has a vision for creating the perfect atmosphere in each scene. Her descriptions have a corporeal feel that enables audiences to picture the action, phrasing words poetically to produce the sentiment which she desires. The slang which the characters use in the rookery has an authentic touch. Whether the expressions are accurate or not is inconsequential. The unique vernacular developed by the lower classes of East London is what the audience gleans from the language used, and like a Dickens novel, evokes compassion from the reader for the characters and their struggle.