The Rogue Returns by Leigh LaValle

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THE ONLY THING LESS TRUSTWORTHY THAN A ROGUE…

Lady Helen Gladstone has siblings to protect and creditors at her door. There’s only one way to stave off disaster–to find the fabled fortune that her deceased brother buried years ago. Her experience with her lying father and gambling brother has left her able to spot a scoundrel at ten paces. Unfortunately, the scoundrel she encounters is a lot closer than that…and he’s planning to make off with her treasure.

…IS A LADY WITH NOTHING TO LOSE

After years of exile, Roane Grantham is eager to begin a new life without the law on his heels. First, he needs gold–his gold, buried one drunken night long ago. But he doesn’t count on a petite, bold-as-brass blonde laying claim to his hoard.
Forming an uneasy alliance, Helen and Roane adventure through the high peaks of England, battling treasure hunters, violent storms, and dangerous terrain. But can they escape the growing passion that threatens to steal their hearts?

Publisher and release date: Heart Bay Publishing, January 2014

RHL Classifications
Time and Setting: England, 1824
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat level: 2
Reviewer rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by Maria Almaguer

I’ve read a few road trip stories in historical romance–A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare and Anne Gracie’s Bride by Mistake come immediately to mind. I think it’s a great plot device for a hero and heroine to get to know one another in the most trying of circumstances. After all, you don’t really know someone until you take a trip with them, right? With all its possibilities of inconvenience, discomfort, and unfamiliarity, a road trip is the perfect way to see if you and another person are compatible.

This book was very, very funny, with lots of laugh out loud moments, sparkling dialogue, and humorous situations: Helen’s terror of horses, the way she refused to sleep with Roane’s horse-smelling bedroll even though she was cold, how she was woefully unprepared for treasure hunting in the rough woods and mountains, her insistence on rescuing a kitten, and how she refused to give up holding her reticule–Roane called it a “ridicule” because it kept hitting her horse in the head as she rode.

Though Roane and Helen were very attracted to one another from the start, their romance was slow growing at a nice pace, with a few kisses and touches here and there. Their love scene, when it finally happened, was at the perfect moment in the story and was sensual, poignant, and beautiful. He warned her all along that she wasn’t safe with him (because he was attracted to her and they were traveling alone) but somehow she felt she could trust him.

I loved that Roane said “I love you” first. I just finished Laura Lee Guhrke’s When the Marquess Met His Match and in that story, the hero also declared his love first. Refreshing and different. I also loved his nickname for her, “buttercup.” I thought it was sweet without being cloying.

Roane’s criminal past as a highwayman, and the time he served, made him into the man he was: a man of patience who managed to control his anger and keep his cool in perilous situations. He learned not to take things for granted and recalled the unconditional love of his Aunt Pearl in his childhood, when he was abandoned by his father, an earl.

Roane, a name I was not familiar with, is Gaelic, meaning red-haired–but Roane was a blond. An old friend of her dissolute late brother, James, Helen assumed he was a lot like James. He may once have been, but his past had changed and matured him. He was also an artist who enjoyed sketching, something that touched Helen and helped quash her assumptions of him as an insensitive and selfish rogue.

Helen, like some other heroines I’ve read in historical romance–Vanessa Kelly’s Vivien Shaw in Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, for example–was the supporter and nurturer of her family, keeping their heads barely above water. Her wayward and restless brothers Harry and James–who should have been caring and providing for her instead–let Helen take care of them. She gave all of herself to them and she was tired of it.

Their journey changed both Helen and Roane. Roane’s plans for his share of the treasure included purchasing land to raise and breed horses while Helen hoped to finally be an independent woman, not reliant on any man. During their travels, she learned she enjoyed adventure and found she could endure much more hardship than she thought; she also found happiness and peace in the simplest things. Roane, at first wary of her company, came to want to protect Helen, something he both feared and embraced, while he admired her bravery, strength, and forbearance. Both came to care more about the other than the treasure they were seeking.

The entire story was excellently paced. The villains were always in the background at their heels and I was afraid they would turn up at every corner, but they arrived at the just the right moment; not too soon, and not too late.

Though this wasn’t a long book (216 pages in ePUB on my Nook), characterization was extremely well done and I really felt I got to know both protagonists well. The setting of the mountains and places in England along their journey north to Yorkshire appeared to be accurate and I really got a sense of place. Finally, the romance here was engaging and lovely. Roane and Helen began as adversaries, became wary travel companions, then friends, then confidants and, eventually, lovers.

This was the third book in Leigh LaValle’s Nottinghamshire series, and I broke my own rule about reading books in order to review this. But the plot just sounded like so much fun I knew I had to read it. It can be read as a standalone so you don’t have to worry that you’re missing any backstory.

A rousing, madcap, and fun road trip romance. This is an author I will definitely be reading more of. Brava!

4 thoughts on “The Rogue Returns by Leigh LaValle

  1. Lovely review, Maria. I’m adding this one to my wish-list. I love road trip stories as well. Have you read Loretta Chase’s Last Night’s Scandal? That’s a great road trip story too.

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